Category Archives: catholic homeschoolers

Our Learning Plans Using Catholic Schoolhouse

Many families look at programs like Catholic Schoolhouse and because we have been programmed in the brick and mortar mentality of textbooks and workbooks, a program like CSH seems a bit foreign. When I first looked into CSH, I had just come back from a one room schoolhouse field trip so I could see beyond what most consider a normal classroom setting. You can read all about that field trip and my AHA moment when I realized I needed to group all of my children as much as possible in as many subjects as possible.

What stumps many families from using programs like CSH? Many of my friends thought I was nuts for going into a program, initially designed to be used in a co-op setting, where I would need to do a lot of the leg work. Well, I truly looked at this as an exciting opportunity to have the flexibility I wanted but also have a focus or guide with the Tour Guides that were already so nicely organized. It did mean I needed to do my own research on trade books we would use but that was no big deal for me, being a reading specialist and also because so many Catholic programs have their reading lists already available online, all I had to do was compile and select what I wanted to use with my own children. I knew I needed three things:

1. a Teaching Plan for me for Whole Group Learning

2. An Individualized Plan for each of the children to also contain whole group learning but include individualized subjects like spelling, Math, leveled reading, Composition, Religion, and Grammar).

Individualized Plans per student

3) l knew we need a uniform method of keeping track of papers and print outs, drawings, and maps. This is how my two plans and our notebook was born.

After completing two Tours of using Catholic Schoolhouse (CSH), I was able to get a feel for what we liked to work on on a daily and weekly basis, so I created a list of routines we used for each subject. This is how I was able to come up with Our Learning Guide which helps me plan for our whole group learning. If you are not familiar with CSH, it is a classical approach to education with memory songs to help children remember important basic facts and historical names and dates. This led me to create two organizers, one for me to write and organize what I will be using with all the children during our whole group lessons, and the second sheet are for the children to check off their daily work, have their spelling and geography terms in one location and also I added their daily chore routine at the bottom of the page. This helps me keep them accountable for what my husband and I require of the children as members of this family and our homeschooling students.

Individualized plans are in presentation folders with dividers.
Samples of filled out plans.
In this I also include our book list which is required in our portfolio, this also helps me keep track of the texts and trade books each child has read per school year.
At the bottom of my Individualized plans I list our daily chore routine as well to remind the children everything that needs to be done.
Additionally, I include the scope and Sequence for the year of CSH we are using.

Next we also use a binder to keep track of their whole group work. We use a three inch binder per child with dividers for each subject we work on together. This is the method we have been using all school year and it has worked wonderfully for my children in grades 6, 5, 3, and 1. The younger children have received additional support from myself or the older children. In keeping their notebooks up to date and organized where the older children are expected to maintain theirs on their own after guidance from me during first quarter. So the binder is like a portfolio which keeps their work nice and organized and in one location. For those of you in states that require portfolios, I highly recommend this teaching and record keeping method.

Interested in getting copies of my two files? Here is what to do (using the honor system):

1. Please make sure, if you are on social media, that you are following me either one or both: Facebook or InstaGram (@raisinglittlrsaints).

2. Leave me a comment, letting me know which method you follow me.

3. Click to view and save locally (so you can edit and personalize) the two documents:

A) Whole Group Plans/Routine

B) Individualized Plans/Routine

Thank you! Erika 🙂

Personalized Composition Book Covers

I’ve always wanted to create covers for the children’s composition books.  We love composition books, I always buy them when they are $.50 a piece and love how sturdy they are.  The ones that are fancier are more expensive and with five children buying those are not possible and keeping within our budget.  So I decided I’d create some for my children instead.  Of course, I want to share them with others.  I’ve already shared them with Facebook friends.  
I printed two per page, cut them, and used simple school glue to glue them down.  I might put a line of tape all around the edges if I see them start to turn up but I don’t think it will be much of a problem.  Here is what they look like:
The children are very excited to have pretty covers over their composition books and finding the right book will be a simple task.  If you are interested in downloading them here they are: 

Composition Book Personalized Covers.

Mama Erika
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The {Catholic} Homeschooling Socialization Myth

A couple of years ago, in my local newspaper, there was a nice article about a homeschooling family with five children. They quoted the home schooled children and the author spoke statistics…when I saw it laying on my kitchen table, I thought wow how exciting and went on, with much enthusiasm, to read the article. Later on I checked my e-mail and saw lots of messages from local home schoolers who were outraged by the comments being left on-line regarding the article. I skimmed through those messages (a bunch had already been blocked by the paper) and noticed the one prevailing topic: socialization. Generalizations about any group of people is common among humans. So this was not a shocker. But when I read comments from other who have never walked in the shoes of a homeschooling family it made me think that they believe that we keep our kids in a closet (without windows) and don’t allow them to go out and be “socialized”.

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Homeschool Schoolroom Make Over

Year 4, five children, one room, six desks, what is a home educator to do with our school room?
Step One:  Look around and PANIC because what you thought you had done, doesn’t look to hot by week six of your homeschool year.  It’s year four and all and you *should* have this under control right?  Right?  No.
Step Two:  Think of the kids, how the function, where you need more space, which direction are the windows, stop starring at the disorganized and incredibly FULL bookshelf in the room, and definitely STOP thinking that DH needs to finally build that really cool one you saw on Pinterest and want so bad.
Step Three:  Keep Calm and grab some coffee.
This, my friends, was me last week on Friday.  I thought I had organized the schoolroom for the 11 billionth trillionth time and that it looked good….but, but…once we started using the room, it wasn’t functioning.  So it was time to give our schoolroom a Make Over!  I didn’t want to go out to the dreaded Dollar Store, one more, time….so I worked with what I had in the house.  Double brownie points for me in the end when the room looked FANTASTIC and I got to brag that we didn’t spend one more cent on it.  So here is our new school room, in pictures.  I will caption each section describing in as much detail what I did and why I felt it made a difference.  Enjoy!

This is our Word Wall.
As the children learn new sight words we add them to the word wall.
It’s their “trophy” for conquering the new words.
This is a close up of the Letter Tt on our Word Wall.
I have chosen to BOX the letters so that the children continue to see the shape of the words.
These are the children’s Workboxes.  Each shelf has nine workboxes.
The ones on the left belong to our second grader, he uses all nine boxes.
The ones on the right are shared by our first grader who uses boxes #1-6
and our preschooler who has boxes #7-9.
This is our preschooler’s desk.
Next to him are three bins (red, yellow, red) with the flash cards he likes to use.
Thankfully, he is not a daydreamer so facing the window isn’t an issue for him.  
His desk and chair was a FreeCycle find….yep, they were free!
These desks belong to our first and second graders.
They use the little space under their seat to store their independent reading book,
their dry erase board tablets, and their daily journals.  I place the old play rug under their desks so that it keeps the desks in one spot in the room plus it protects the wood floor.  I got these two desks on FreeCycle (yep, for FREE)…they were dirty and written on so I cleaned them up and got them back into good and usable shape.  I love free finds like these!
This is the corner next to our preschooler’s desk,
the top of the shelf are items for the teacher/mom ONLY. 😉
This is the supply shelf, I used small coffee tin cans to store supplies like pencils, rubber bands, chalk, scissors, glue, etc.  I covered them with a pretty paper I made, if you are interested I can upload them, just leave me a comment.  The old wipe tub holds blank index cards which the kids use to draw on or to write notes to friends/family.  The second shelf stores their flash cards. The first one is Religious ones, the middle one is Math and Science, and the right one is Reading. They are either in individual small ziploc bags or with rubber bands. Only one set per child is allowed out at a time.

I added the green curtains which my MIL gave me a while back and I didn’t know which room to use them in so they were sitting in a closet.  They match the containers in the bookshelf perfectly.

THIS is the main reason I started this Make Over, the bookshelf, it was such a mess…
what I did was use these little crates I picked up at the Dollar Store long ago…
I had them full of junk/toys basically and now they store books.
On top of the shelf I placed the supplies I do not want the children handling without my help.
The first shelf stores my books which I make copies from or I use as resources.
The second shelf has books from last year which I use to go back to when needed in addition to our Scholastic Readers Series. The third row has green containers from the Dollar Store which now have our easy readers in two, our little Father Lavasik religion books in another.   The last two shelves have educational puzzles and games which we use frequently. Most Dollar Store or Marshalls finds.
This room has two entrances but no doors this is the view from the living room into the schoolroom and what I consider the front of the room. The student workboxes are in the front.
In the corner there I have little tables with papers, notebooks, construction paper, colored pencils, and other supplies for the toddler to use.  It’s his “desk” when he “does school”  🙂
The tables are big enough for him to work his little puzzles on which are located to the right of him.  

This is the other view from the side entrance into the school room.  Here you can see the children on the left.  They are on the school room computer.  You can see the front of the room here, the map, the calendar, our Morning Message Board, and our teaching board.  On top of the boards is a line with clothespins to display the work of the children.  On the opposite corner (on the left of this picture) is our eldest son’s desk/computer.  But recently, he likes to go to our dinning room table and spread his books out.

Here you can see our Morning Routine calendar and morning message, our prayers and our focus of the week.

This is the dry erase board I use for our Morning Message and also has the Letter of the Week for our Preschooler, the Feast Day, and our Count Down of the Week and Day of School.  To the left of this is our calendar.  I bought these dry erase boards on Craigslist for like $10 for two of them…the one on the right is the one I use for teaching.

Hope you have enjoyed our school room make over!
Thanks for stopping by.


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A Word on Caution on Homeschooling {and a letter to myself}

What’s the old saying, “hind-sight is 20/20”?  If I knew what I know today about homeschooling back in 2008 when we first started thinking about it, I wouldn’t have had a second thought about it.  Homeschooling is a BIG decision, I’m not trying to make it seem otherwise.  We all have these doubts, so moms and dads that *just* made the decision or still on the fence about it, this one is for you.  I decided to write a letter to myself (three years ago) pointing out the things that my children would be missing if they were to be pulled out of regular school or never attended it, as is the case of my younger children.:
Dear Erika (past):
Right now you are worried about damaging your eldest son because you are pulling him out of Catholic School and formal schooling which he’s been in all of his short life but I wanted to tell you a couple things for you to ponder on.  Right now you are wondering if your children will miss out on anything, if they will resent you for not allowing them to attend the contemporary approach to schooling and I wanted to tell you that maybe you are right he will miss out on tons of things…for example:

1. your children will not be able to learn some cuss words from other kids.

2. they might not get to learn what the latest fad is, clothing, electronics, etc., and covet them constantly,

3. your children might not get to learn about sex too early, or able to hear what the “birds and the bees” are really all about from his/her peers,

4. they will not get a chance to be exposed to immodest clothing from those girls who got to school as if they were going to the beach,

5. your children will also not get to hear liberal leaning history of the world,

6. your children might not even get to fully understand how extremely populated the world is and how much he needs to limit his family when he grows up,

7. they might also not get a chance to attend a religious school that might just be teaching things erroneously and then you don’t get a chance to correct these errors when he gets home from school,

8. your children will definitely not get to sit all day at his desk without moving, or exploring the outdoors.

9. they won’t get to interact with kids that are only their particular age, because you know the real world is like that we only hang out with people that are pretty much a year older or younger or our same age,

and last but not least:
10. your children don’t go to regular school, they won’t get a chance to socialize with others, he will be shy and never want to talk to adults and definitely won’t learn manners.

Are you running out the door right now to register your children in school now?  This is just the tip of what your child will miss out on if they went to “regular” schooling.  

In Christ,
Erika (present)
PS:  There is ONE thing you DO need for this journey, the Sacraments…receive them as frequently as possible to receive as MANY graces as possible…all things with God are possible!
Today, I pray the Lord allows me to continue schooling my children at home.

My friend Allison has another similar post entitled, Letter To A Mom With Homeschool Doubts

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Writing Activity to Create a Mother’s Day Card

So these are the days when I do miss my kids being in school, I just love the little things they made for me at school.  So this gave me the idea of creating something here to use at our homeschool.  Of course, I wanted to share it!  🙂  Here it is!  A writing activity to create a Mother’s Day card.
Page1:  Use this as the cover page, have your child draw and color a picture of Mom.
Page 2:  Brainstorm words that describe mom.
Page 3:  Write a paragraph describing mom using the words from page 2.
Put them all together on a big construction paper folded like a card and voila!   Now to avoid you seeing this, if you want it to be a surprise of course, have your eldest child collect them and put them in an envelope or folder and hide it until Sunday!  🙂
 I can’t show you the ones my kids made yet, so this is roughly what it should look like:
Happy Mother’s Day, dear friends!
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Introducing Catholic Homeschooling 101: A Tutorial for Beginners

Now that I am seeing year three come to an end, I like to think back of how our journey started.  This leads to thinking about the good and the bad, what I did and loved, what we did and changed…but that is the beauty of home educating, you have control of your curriculum and you can pick and choose what works best for your child(ren).  🙂 
So in thinking back, the only thing I wish I had was a “tutorial” of sorts so that I had a better idea of what to do STEP-BY-STEP.  Call me square if you want, but I really love “how-to” books and blog posts.  I find them extremely valuable and well, experience is the most important thing in life, in all aspects actually.  Honestly, I learned more from my homeschooling mommy peers (whom do not have teaching degrees) than from co-workers with Masters or PhDs.  You cannot trade a degree for experience, honest to goodness.  When I first started homeschooling, I looked like a freshman in college next to these ladies.  (SHOUT OUT:  Thank you Betsy, Katie, Stephanie, Tina, RuthAnne, Richelle, and Kimberely for all your guidance, patience, and support!  I truly could not have done it without you and might have already been a “homeschool drop out” if it wasn’t for you lovely ladies!)  
So here it is, a series of How-To’s on home educating entitled “Catholic Homeschooling 101”.  It is my hopes that this little tutorial will guide, help and support those who do not have the same IRL support that I received from my friends.
So stay tuned for upcoming tips, tricks, and ideas for Catholic Homeschooling!  I’ll be talking about:
  • About Goals
  • About Learning
  • About Life
  • About Growing Up
  • About Fun
  • About Sleep
  • About Letting Go
  • About Love
  • About Procrastination
  • About Time Management
  • About Work
  • and more…

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Six Kids, Three Countries, One Family – “That’s {not so} Crazy!”

The following blog post was written in the Summer:

We spent this past Saturday at a baseball tournament. Both boys were involved, so it meant some running around and coordinating schedules so both boys could get to the correct field at the correct time. Bob helps with both teams so it usually leaves me (and often my parents!) with the four younger kids.

As I was getting their lunch ready and they were sitting on the blanket waiting, a mom of one of Jacob’s teammates asked how old they all were. I went through their ages and she said “that’s crazy!”. She then confirmed that I was indeed Jacob’s mom and I mentioned we had another son playing on the 8U team, her reply “that’s crazy, you guys are crazy!”. Then some more of the usual questions followed… “Are they siblings?” etc, etc. Again the reply was “you guys are crazy!”. I walked away from the blanket for a moment and came back with something else and she said to me “I was just curious, I didn’t mean anything by the questions” and I said in return “It’s no problem, we get those questions all the time”. And we do. Our family looks visibly different than other families so we do open ourselves up to more stares and more questions. I am not really sure what causes more attention, the fact that we have six children who are fairly close in age, or the fact that we are an “international” family.

While we do often get many nice comments about our family, we also get the “that’s crazy” response too. Obviously this mom realized that her comments were a bit awkward. I don’t think my response or lack of response to “that’s crazy!” was anything impolite, I am just not sure what kind of response she was expecting from me. She certainly wasn’t paying me a compliment. She could have chosen to ask her questions and then made no comment at all.

We have made these choices for our family simply because they have been our choices, not because we want or need validation from others. I often wonder why people feel they have to comment at all? We do feel blessed at how God has chosen to form and grow our family and we love to talk about adoption. We also hope in some very small way that we can encourage others to consider adoption. It really was the whole point of making our blog public so that people can see, even though we are not biologically related, we still are a real family in every sense of the word.

~ Mama Jen

Jen is a wife to one amazing husband and mom to six energetic kids.  Visit Forever, For Always, No Matter What where she blogs about their Catholic faith, homeschooling and adoption.


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Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I am posting this a couple of days early of both feast days because St. Juan Diego is the 9th of December and Our Lady of Guadalupe is the 12th.

To honor Our Lady on her Feast day, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, we did a couple of  simple yet, beautiful activities to honor our Blessed Mother.  

This day was a special day with our six year old son.  As the second of five children, I got some rare special one-on-one time with him for this activity.  We started by reading Father Lovasik’s book on Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I read and pause between pages with this little man because he LOVES to ask questions or just give his input.  He is an excellent auditory learner (I wish I was like him) so he captures things by just listening to them once – amazing!

Then we started a couple of fun activities I found around the web (see the list at the bottom of this post):

Don’t you just love the tongue out in concentration mode?

He was very cautious and meticulous about coloring his picture of our lady.

These were all of the supplies we used for this lesson.
The only one missing from this picture is the little Father Lovasik book.


More coloring and a picture of the cutest little candle I got for $.99 at the local “hispanic supermarket”.

The wonderful DVD that we used to wrap up the lesson.

With supervision, Jojo was allowed to light his little candle. 
On his own, he then proceded to say a Hail Mary
and a special prayer for the Protection of our Blessed Mother
of unborn babies (it was so adorable!).

Explaining his color choices (he used the candle as a model).

Here he was coloring St. Juan Diego.

I got this prayer for St. Juan Diego’s intercession from another blog;
I just loved that it was in Spanish.

He colored the Tilma and wanted the picture of our Lady to match, just right!

These little candles are about half the size of the regular Saint ones..

If you have been following Raising {& Teaching}Little Saints, you know how much I totally love all the DVDs that we got from CCC of America for children last year.  One of the ones we received from them for our review was Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe.  We finished our activities by watching this wonderful little movie on Our Lady and St. Juan Diego.

 Blessings to you all!
Items used:
Our Lady of Guadalupe candle, bought at a local Mexican grocery store
Our Lady of Guadalupe book by Father Lovasik
Mama Erika
This blog post is linked up:
Fiestas de Enlaces Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe


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Promo code: MERRY4ALL   Valid December 7th through the 9th, 2011
Promo code can be used online or with orders placed at 800.935.2222   
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