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.




Add Universalis Catholic Calendar to Your Google Calendar

To give credit, I found this site,

Go to Universalis – Yearly Calendar.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Add to Google Calendar button. Also, if you want to add the liturgical year to Outlook or another desktop or online calendar system you can download the calendar in vcalendar/ical format and then import.

You will be taken to your Google Calendar page where it will ask you if you want to add it to your calendar. Just ensure that you are only adding the items to one calendar – if you add them to multiple calendars that you are subscribed to, you will receive multiple reminders. And, it is time consuming to delete those entries since there is one for each day of the year.

Click Yes – and – voila – you have the liturgical year on your Google Calendar.

One other suggestion for families that have multiple calendars that they share – create a new calendar called Catholic Feast Days, or whatever you wish, and then add the liturgical calendar to that specific calendar. Everyone can subscribe to that calendar without worrying about receiving multiple reminders.

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.

Wow! Check out Catholic Familyland’s New Website

The formal name for Catholic Familyland is the Apostolate for Family Consecration. The previous website allows you to download the pdf’s for the Catechism developed by the Apostolate (with an imprematur by Cardinal Arinze); or download the mp3’s or DVD’s of Cardinal Arinze going through each question and answer and talking more in depth. It is a fabulous, free resource.

Now, the apostolate is rolling out a beta version of the catechism online – And, what a great site it is. There are video’s, images, in depth discussions, exercises and more tied to each question.

Now, I don’t particularly like rollover menus since I find them to be a bit touchy, but the content is incredible. They have done a wonderful job of bringing information together so that it is all at your fingertips.

A quick example: In section 2: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, you will find Part 1, Chapter 19 the question, “What does the Incarnation mean?”.

You will find on the right side of the page, 4 sections. The first section is the “Answered By”. In that section, there are three clickable images offering you a video of the answer by Cardinal Arinze, a 2 page text article of the answer from the catechism, and coming soon, an answer from Sister M. John Vianney that will be geared towards younger students and children.

The second section in reference to the question are prayers.

In the cross reference section to the question you will find five sections:

  • scriptural references (full text)
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church references (full text)
  • Church doctrine references – specifically for this question, you will find a reference to the text, Lumen Gentium section 55
  • papal document references – specifically for the question it refers you to “Deus Caritas Est” sections 41-42 (full text)
  • a list of other documents referenced – for this question the list included Father Hardon’s Catechism, Shrek’s “Basics of the Faith”, and Baker’s “Fundamentals of Catholicism” among many others  (these are simply titles and page numbers, not full text).

The final section is the Doctrine – Morals – Worship Exercises to explore more deeply your personal understanding of the question (and the answers to these questions are also provided). In this section is also a Thought Provoker along with an answer.

This would be a great resource in homeschooling if your student needs to dig deeper into a topic, or if you have a friendly debate with a person and you would like to some scriptural references or other references to explain a concept.

Speech Therapy at home? Not exactly.

I am not promoting the idea that parents can identify and remediate all speech issues at home. Speech therapists are highly trained and skilled at identifying issues and are an important resource. But there are times when either we cannot afford their services, especially if we do not want to go through the school system, or the issues seem to be minor enough that perhaps, with the right resources, we can attempt to remediate at home before we go on to seek the skills of a professional.

So, with all that being said, I have a child who has some articulation issues. He was delayed in his speech, and while he seems to be at grade level with his language expression and comprehension, I was a bit concerned about his articulation.

A friend on a homeschool list I belong to mentioned the program, “Straight Talk” from NATHHAN: National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network. First of all, I have to say the newsletter included in the box is phenomenal – it is packed full of resources – even pro-life resources like carrying to term sites, post abortion resources and pro-life doctors. What a testimony to their belief that all God’s children are to be cherished. NATHHAN is a wonderful, Christian resource for families who are homeschooling children with special needs!

Anyway, back to “Straight Talk” – I ordered the $55 package (free shipping) for “Straight Talk 1 – A parent’s guide to correcting childhood speech mispronunciations.” (please note there is a “Straight Talk 2 – A parents guide to language development”) – and it included a binder, the program, and a DVD.

The DVD has staged therapy sessions so that parents can understand how to work with their children. You watch the instructor adminster the quick test, a series of 29 pictures and a checksheet to note which sounds your child has incorrectly pronounced. You then check the age/sound chart to see if the sounds are sounds your child should have mastered by his age.

The next part goes on to the Word Probe – you take the sounds that your child had difficulty with and go to the the Word Probe page for that sound – you’ll find 3 columns of words, with the sound in the beginning, middle and end (there might be a 4th column for blends). You say the word, the child repeats and you make a note of how he said the sound such using a w sound for the r sound. Now, you know specifically where he has difficulties.

The final part is how to begin training to pronounce the sound correctly – isolated, syllables, words, sentences and then in conversational speech. In the Word Probe section prior to the words, you will find a page or two of detailed information on how that particular sound is produced – you are provided with teaching cues and may use things like a tongue depressor and a mirror to teach where your tongue should be when you say the sound “er”. Ideas are provided for how to motivate your child to do all the repetitions necessary. Pattern sheets are provided for some of the exercises. The DVD is helpful in getting an overview of the program as well as reinforcing when to move on, things like 90% accuracy with no cuing over 3 sessions for syllable sound training.

So far, I have only administered the quick test and word probes for the sounds my son had difficulty with, but already I realize that some of the sounds I can relax a bit on, he still has another year before I need to really work on those sounds.

Again, this is not a suggestion to bypass speech therapy. But just offered as another resource to consider.

Some other links that might be helpful:

  • I also found another site with 350 picture word cards. These would be a useful addition to work on articulation and language aquisition. One further site is a list of word pairs from Caroline Bowen. You might use this as an adjunct to formal therapy, or a suppliment to what you are doing on your own.
  • The blog from Mommy Speech Therapy has some useful exercises and links – I am using some of the ideas for working with the “t” sound and the placement of my son’s tongue.

Review – Catholic High School Economic Program – Apostles and Markets

Finally! Yes, I finally sat down and went through this beautiful program in order to provide a write up. This is a Catholic economic program for high school age students called “Apostles and Markets“. From the website the author states:

I wrote Apostles & Markets with Catholic teachers in mind. For twenty years I held an endowed chair in economics at a Catholic college-preparatory high school in the Midwest. In my work I sought to develop the particular perspective and instructional materials that I knew I needed in order to teach well according to academic and normative standards. At the same time, I became aware that other teachers, similarly situated, faced the same challenge. How might a teacher in a Catholic school frame the study of immigration, for example—or wage inequality, profits, the environment, or globalization—validly, according to relevant disciplinary principles, and according to principles of our faith? How do technical issues of monetary and fiscal policy come into view in a Catholic context? I struggled with difficult questions of this sort for a long time, through study, discussion, and ongoing classroom practice. These efforts have now yielded Apostles & Markets. I offer it here in the hope that others will find uses for it and, in their work with it, contribute to the quest it represents.

Stephen J. Haessler, Ph.D.

Honestly, I found myself a bit reluctant to review this program because I do not as yet have students in high school. So, I offer that as a caveat.

The program is provided in a very large 3 ring binder that permits the teacher to pull out the reproducibles quite easily. The quality of the paper is quite nice, and while the majority of the pages are black and white, there is enough color to give your eyes a treat.

The program is comprised of 12 chapters – each one named after an apostle. The topics include:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Prices
  • Valuation
  • Profit
  • Wages
  • Pollution
  • Trade
  • Tariffs
  • Unemployment
  • Immigration
  • Stability
  • Corruption

Each chapter begins with a “Lesson Description” offering a one paragraph explanation of what the student is to learn, what resources he or she will use and what project they will work on to apply the lesson. This is followed by the “Lesson Rationale” – another one paragraph item. After these two paragraphs, there follows a list of references including specific biblical passages, references from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The author also provides a list of Economic Concepts, Economic Standards, Objectives and finally a list of Materials (handouts) that you would make copies of for your students.

The next section of the chapter is the specifics on how to teach the lesson. In general this is about a one page “script” for the teacher. There are terms for the student to define, questionms to pose and discussions to lead.

After the “Teaching Procedures” portion of the chapter, answer keys are provided for each of the handouts for that chapter. The answers are generally a few lines each. Finally, you are given a set of guidelines on how to assess the work that is turned in.

The meat of the program is in the Handouts. For example, in the first chapter, Handout one is comprised of six pages. Four pages are text and include biblical passages and passages from the CCC along with explanations of how the passages relate to the chapter’s topic. Following the text are the questions to have the student work on. Some of the handouts are hands on projects like “Doin’ a Dozen: Applying Supply and Demand Analysis to Gas Prices” in Chapter 2 – “St. Andrew: Market Pricing”. This handout has 11 pages and guides the student to an indepth analysis and chance to apply what they have been studying.

You can view samples for each of the chapters on the website by clicking on the Lesson links on the left side of the page.

This program is best suited to be used in a group setting. One parent might feel comfortable teaching all the lessons, or you might have each parent take 2 of the lessons to teach. You would be best prepared to study the materials and go through the activities on your own so that you can better guide your student.

I think this is a fantastic addition to the homeschooling community. While it is geared to a presentation in a group setting and was developed for Catholic teachers, I believe that students benefit from this type of setting for this particular topic and I believe that there is enough information provided for a homeschooling mother to manage – but it could be a stretch honestly since this is not a subject that many of us have studied.

The foundation of the program is solid and authentically Catholic. My hope is to offer this as a class in my homeschooling community during the year we again study American history and civics. I envision some lively discussions and feel that the projects will be of great assistance in really learning the material. Another suggestion would be to enlist a homeschooling family that owns a small business – what a great opportunity for a father to teach to the homeschoolers – perhaps a Saturday morning class?

Review – The Faith Database

Faith Database – Over 1500 Writings – Over 75,000,000 Words – Over 80,000 Pages

First of all, let me give you some links:

Faith Database Website

Video Introducing the Faith Database – Jerry Usher

In one place, you have an absolutely mind boggling amount of information compiled (from the website):

2000 Years of Christian History

  • 10 Bible Translations
  • 88 Council Documents from all 21 Ecumenical Councils
  • 400 Early Church writings
  • 165 writings from the Doctors of the Church
  • 74 books from John Henry Newman
  • 1300 Papal writings/encyclicals
  • The Old Catholic Encyclopedia (1200 entries and 5000 images)
  • Many classics including Gibbons’ “Faith of our Fathers,” Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” and John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”
  • 1000 Bible Art Images
  • Over 100 Bible Maps
  • Illustrated Church history
  • Search Catechism and Code of Canon Law

Some of the Over 1500 Featured Writings Classics

  • Apologia (Newman)
  • Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
  • Thomas a Kempis
  • Doctors of the Church
  • St. John of the Cross
  • St. Theresa of Avila
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (The Summa)

Early Church Fathers

  • St. Augustine’s Confessions
  • Irenaeus’ Against Heresies
  • St. John Chrysostom’s Commentaries

Papal Writings / Encyclicals

Ok, so now as a homeschooling parent – what do we do with this? How can we it assist us in our job as teachers? I believe it’s a given that it it is a fantastic apologetic tool for all adults as well as way for us to grow in our faith. With ten translations of the Holy Bible, we can do in depth Bible studies.

But, this review is focused on how we might use the database with our children.

So, my first delve into the database – my two oldest children had to write a paper for 8th grade about Infallibility. I could not do the search because I was using the database incorrectly. Finally, I realized I needed to select Encyclopedia and searched again for the term, “infallibility” – and the program crashed. Yikes. A caveat, watch the video! It gives a nice walk through of how to search the encyclopedia. But, I still encountered an error and will contact them in regards to it. It appears if you search for a term in the topics that is not found, you receive an error message and if you press cancel, it closes the program down.

Oops – I discovered that I spelled the word incorrectly. Once I correctly spelled infallibility, I discovered one entry for the topic and many entries when I searched the text – both searches returned a huge amount of information. Everything I might possibly want to know about infallibilty was in the topic and my children were able to understand the concept better. Actually, I read it and distilled it and was better able to delve deeper into the topic so that they were able to write more about it.

Then, out of curiosity, I wanted to see what other information was in the database about infallibility. After selecting the Tab, Apologetics, I selected Authority/Church in the Categories Box, and then in then in the box below, Doctrines, I selected Church Authority/Papal Infallibilty.  What was returned, was a series of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church including:

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.

Under this section was Supporting Bible Passages with another great list of quotes. This was followed by quotes from the Early Church fathers. Wow! All I can say is wow! What an amazing collection of information.

Next task – my 8th graders needed to write a paper on the 4 marks of the Catholic Church, “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic”. I go immediately to the Apologetics section – and there it is. Once again, I select in the Categories box, Authority/Church. Then I find a topic for each item – Church is Apostolic (ok, I know this is the One part of the Marks of the Church). Again, the format is a collection of quotes from the CCC, then the supporting Bible passages, followed by the Early Church fathers quotes. There is more information than I even know what to do with. And, again, my children are able to write a deeper paper because I am better educated.

My only disappointment with the Apologetics section is that I was unable to search for terms in it.

The Mass section is another little treasure. Each part of the mass is written out, and then a “references” link is provided on the right. After clicking it, you find a list of Bible passages giving reference to where the words came from. You could also use this section for a detailed study of the Creed since each section is referenced.

The saints section is searchable.

I love the History Section. It has as categories, 100 year increments, and within each period such as 501-600AD, a number of topics like Irish monasteries flourish. The text on the right is brief, but there are images to view, an encyclopedia entry about the history of Ireland, and a map image. As my children study medieval history, I can totally image how we can use this section.

I cannot even begin to delve into all the rest including the various writings of Saints, Doctors of the Church and Popes. You can select Popes and then Pope John Paul II and see all the writings included. So, if you want to read “Faith and Reason”, there it is. I believe all these writings are downloaded upon installation. So the install of the database does take some time.

Also included are 10 translations of the Holy Bible and again, I do not have time to delve into how we might use that in our homeschools.

This is a fantastic product – I am not sure if they will be offering updates, but it is well worth the price of $31.95 (downloaded), or $39.95 (shipped). I look forward to seeing all the ways I can use this for both my personal growth in faith, to become a better apologist, and in my homeschooling.

Physical Education

I have a week long free trial to GoTrybe. It costs $30 / year and you could have a membership for each child, but the representative at the booth said one per family is enough.

Now, I have to say on one of the banners last week, they talked about STDs – not graphic, but it was a bit disconcerting.

Anyway, what is so unique is you get to build a workout – you have a 3 minute warm up section and 38 different video clips to choose from, then you have 3 cardio sections to fill for 10 minutes total, then there is a strength section (8-12 minutes), and finally a flexibility section (3 minutes). The warm up and cardio video clips include just basic cardio, cardio groove, hiphop, kickboxing, and sports drills. The strength training section has some videos that include basic weight training, and finally the flexibility has basic flexibility and about 10 yoga clips – none seem inappropriate or spiritual.

When you complete the workout, you get points that are redeemable for online javascript games (kind of a funny connection) but you have to have loads of points before you can “buy” a game. There are also motivation videos (some baseball team members give short talks about eating and training), nutrition tips with a one or two question quiz, and wellness video clips.

The people on the video range from young adults who lead the moves, to gawky teens that don’t do the moves perfectly – so my guys all fit.

Downside – the video clips don’t have any information about what the workout is other than the title such as Cardio Groove- so you don’t know if the strength training clip needs weights until you start it. I am just keeping a log of what clips we like. Next downside, you can’t “save” your preferred workout – so every day you have to go rebuild it again.

How to make it work better? Well, my laptop has an S-Video out plug, so I was able to route the video out to the TV screen. There was  a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to make the TV display the laptop screen’s content. Basically, for my graphic card, I had to make a clone, but each card’s software is a bit different. That enabled us to do the videos in the living room with enough room for everyone to have a spot. I also connected up a set of USB speakers to the laptop to have the sound louder since my laptop does not have a sound out to 5.1 audio. I do not know if there is a cable to take the headphones out jack to the sound input for my TV.

You should see my crew in the morning doing kickboxing – my 4th grade loves the aggressive nature and I think it moves out some of the pent up energy. We do one workout as a family, but as long as you don’t care who gets the points, each child could design and do their own workout.

I think this would be an easy way to add physical education to our daily program and I joined last week.

Review – Two new (republished) Saints Series for Early Readers

I was so thrilled when I received these two books from Mary’s Books. They are reprints of Dujarie Press Saints and Famous Catholics Biographies by Brother Ernest and Brother Roberto from the 1960’s. The books are the size of typical early reader books with a light blue cover and a simple black lined picture both on the cover and then black lined drawings in the text.

Not knowing what to expect, I opened the first book, “A Story of the Infant Jesus of Prague” by Brother Ernest, C.S.C. (32 pages) and was entranced. I have a number of Catholic saint books from several series; one is a very old set in hardback (what a find on a used Catholic books list) and of course the Mary Fabian Windeatt along with lots of books that are collections of saint stories. But, none of these were really appropriate for my beginning readers. The level 1 book opens with the following text:

Many years ago, no one knows just when, an artist in Spain made a very lovely statue of the Infant Jesus out of wax. We do not know who the artist was, and we do not know for whom he made the beautiful statue.

Isn’t that all very strange?

But I am very glad that the statue was made. I think you will be, too, when you read about it. Its story is a very interesting one. Tell all of your friends about it.

The book continues on to describe the first miracle attributed to the devotion and how the statue lost it’s hands and how they were recovered. Finally, children are introduced to all the miracles that a devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague are attributed.

Ten books are available in the Level One series and retail for $6.95 each or $62.55 for all ten books:

  • A Story of St. Therese
  • A Story of St. Anthony
  • A Story of the Infant of Prague
  • A Story of Saint Bernadette
  • A Story of Saint Joan of Arc
  • A Story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
  • A Story of Saint Charles
  • A Story of Saint Margaret of Scotland
  • A Story of Saint Agatha
  • A Story of Saint Cecilia

For level 2 readers, I had the privilege to read a book from the series, “In the Footprints of Saints” by Brother Roberto, C.S.C. Again, the book is the size of the typical early reader book with a blue cover and a black and white image on the front. I began to read “Stairway to the Stars, A story of St. Germaine Cousin”. The book was 94 pages long so more advanced readers have time to really get to know the saint in language that is appropriate to their reading level. The story begins:

This is the strange and wonderful story of a girl, deformed, ugly, unloved and unwanted, who became one of the great saints of the Catholic Church and who works many miracles today for the sake of suffering people. The girl is Germaine Cousin. Her of of twenty-two years on earth was filled with pain and loneliness and suffering, and now that she is at rest, she does her best to relieve the pain and lonliness and suffering of all who come to know her. For, to know her is to admire her, and in admiring her, we come to love her.

The book simply invites the reader to learn more. You learn about her life, unwanted and mistreated and how she turns to God for comfort and “to help her bear patiently all the bitterness and anguish that lay ahead” and how she attends mass on her own daily and even encourages her care giver to do the same in spite of a busy life. For sensitive children, some of the unwarranted abuse she suffered at the hands of the wife might be a bit disturbing, “the terrible woman raised her fist high above the girl’s head and brought it down with all her strength on Germaine’s head”. But, for my children the scenes were not too disturbing and truly give the reader an image of the suffering that she patiently endured.

And, in spite of the suffering, Germaine is able to take joy in her work of tending sheep and instructing other children in the faith through stories of the saints, her devotion to the rosary and sharing her meager food. Children are also introduced to the miracles attributed to St. Germaine including the wolves not attacking her household’s sheep and even the conversion of her primary tormentor.

Even as an adult, I was moved by the story and my 10 year old daughter, a reluctant reader, who has never voluntarily read a saint book inhaled it! I have fallen in love with a saint about whom I would have never known. These books cost $9.95 each and more titles will be added to the following list:

  • Stairway To The Stars-A Story of St. Germaine Cousin
  • No Tears For The Bride-A Story of St. Perpetua
  • Bring Me An Ax-A Story of St. Boniface
  • The Girl Who Laughed At Satan-St. Rose of Lima
  • Music From The Hunger Pit-A Story of St. Maximilian Kolbe

I love the fact that children can read for themselves such beautiful stories about our beloved saints for themselves. The books can be used both as an introduction to the saints, and as a way to learn about history and geography and of course our faith. These books would be lovely gifts for First Communion or as a gift to a god child for Easter or Christmas. You can purchase the books at

The Footprints of God – video series review

I joined Faith and Family Flix several months ago. We have a Blockbuster online DVD account, but I found the movie selections for FFF much easier to navigate, so now we have both. On to the point of this post, one of my best discoveries was the series, “The Footprints of God“. I watched the first DVD I received, “Mary, Mother of God”. What is so unique about the series, is that they are filmed on site. As Steve Ray talks, you get to see the sites – the actual house of the Dormition of Mary and many other treasured locations. You travel with Steve as he visits all these sites. You have a sense of the scope of the travels that Holy Family made. You see the river Jordon where Jesus was baptized. You are there where Jesus walked on water. You watch as modern fishermen bring in their catches just as the apostles did.

When Steve discussed, “Peter, The Keeper of the Keys”, you see the rock where Jesus proclaimed,

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Upon seeing the rock, you understand exactly what Jesus meant.

Steve is passionate about his subject – his love for the Holy Mother, for the Church and for Our Lord is quite evident. My family was enthralled to watch the DVD’s and we came away with a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the history of the Church.