Category Archives: education

10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum

Selecting a curriculum can be a truly overwhelming task each year for homeschooling mothers.  So many times I have said to myself, “if I could see that book, I’d know if I want it!”  Right?  Then you hop online look through blogs of perfect homes, with perfect mom teachers, that have the perfect school rooms, and then there is Pinterest…then you are headed to Confession, jealousy is a lousy sin.  No seriously, is it not just frustrating?  😀  How do these women just *KNOW* that’s the right Math book?  Why did it not work for *MY* child?  🙂  Well, here’s why:  There IS NOT one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone.  There I said it.  So here’s another secret that lady that introduced you to homeschool forgot to mention, the beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to create a custom curriculum that is beneficial to *YOUR* family.  What works for another family may not be the best fit for another, or *gasp* what works for one of your children may not work for another.    Okay, so now lets take a deep breath and investigate how these ladies on their blogs look so with it.  I confess many times I have said, “when I grow up I want to be just like Jessica from Shower of Roses.”  Don’t laugh, I have said it..even to her.:D
Over the years our family has tried a variety of things – ranging from being an eclectic homeschooler, to using a complete curriculum package to creating things to use, and it has morphed into a combination of pieces that we now use together as a family and components that we use individually to round out the various subject areas.  So how do you decide what is the right fit for your family/homeschool?
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Bringing the Election Home

I’m a firm believer that all families should participate together in the electoral process, particularly in Presidential election years.  Since our oldest son was born in 2003 he has sat through every debate and been to the polls with me each time I voted.  The last Presidential election in 2008 we pulled our son out of Kindergarten and made a whole day out of going to vote as a family.  I even let him cast “my” vote for me in the booth so he felt more involved in the process.  Afterward we went to lunch and then came home to prepare a buffet of appetizers to be consumed as we watched the votes come in from across the country.
Our active role in politics in our family has led to our eldest son being very interested in politics.  He watches the debates and comments intelligently at the age of 9, no shock since at the age of 5 he had a better grasp than many adults I know.  He’s even made his own protest signs defending his beliefs.  He impresses me on a daily basis with his excitement about how our country works and his thirst for knowledge that comes from deep within his heart.
Each year we take the time to educate ourselves and actively discuss what we believe, even when we disagree, about the candidates and their stances.  We watch our own state’s elections as well following very closely the races of Governor, Senators, and Representatives.  Election night is something to celebrate, even when we don’t always agree. 
There is nothing more precious when you live in a truly free country than having the ability to go out and exercise that freedom in voting.  While many countries “vote”, their elections are fixed and those voting know their vote won’t count.  There is outright cruelty at the “polling places” where people are blocked from voting if they are not going to vote the way of the current regime or the regime wanting to take over.
Each and every time we as a country vote, we make a decision to move one step closer toward our freedom, or one step further from it.  If we choose not to vote, then that choice to move away from freedom is chosen for us in lieu of our choosing to fight for the freedoms won for us by generations of American blood spilled on battlefields around the world. 
This year, our family is preparing.  We’ve watched the debates and engaged in them together.  Granted, the 6 month old’s job has mostly been to scream at the TV because there aren’t any commercials on which are far more entertaining to watch.  We plan to go and vote as a family on November 6th.  We plan to go and spend the day together.  My husband is actually taking vacation from work so we can celebrate our country and her freedoms.
This year our son wanted to be part of the tallying process again.  As the results roll in across the country he is responsible for coloring in the charts and keeping the family updated in who is winning/losing.  We all watch the coverage together, but this gives him a special piece of memorabilia for each debate and helps him to see what happens.  The first year we did this, in 2008, he tracked just the Presidential Electoral Votes – all 538 of them!
In 2010, we tracked as the House of Representatives and Senate seats were filled and filled in the same charts.  Tracking two was a bit more of a challenge for him so I would write the numbers down on pink and blue sticky notes respectively so he could color in the right number. 
This time we’re tracking all three simultaneously.  To make things a bit simpler for you to follow along at home too, we’re offering this free PDF at Raising LittleSaints.  All you need to complete the activity is a red marker and a blue marker.  The Senate seats that are not up for vote are already marked for you.  For those with younger children, I highly recommend using stickers.  Either red and blue dots or even red and blue star stickers are a cheap “investment” for the return.  Just so you know you will need 1,073 (538 electoral votes, 435 in the House of Representatives, 100 Senators) stickers to complete all three charts if you go all white so plan ahead!  If you are using the already colored in version of the Senate chart you will need 1,006 (67 seats already filled and not up for election).  I would plan on having at least 600 red and 600 blue on hand in case we see a super majority sweep on one side or another. 
From our home to yours, Happy Election Day.  Embrace your freedom.  Rise above the partisan politics and see November 6, 2012 for exactly what it is: a living, breathing example of our Constitution in practice 225 years after it was signed by this country’s founding fathers.   Be the King.  VOTE.

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Prayer Tips from a Carmelite Sister

My teaching journey has a great little story, I first became associated with education via a Catholic School when I was mistakenly placed in an Introduction to Education class. See I had to do some service hours to see if Education was for me (I was an Accounting Major at the time so imagine how obsured this sounded at the ripe age of 20). So my first experience with classroom education (not counting my time in Youth Ministry) was in a second grade classroom with Sister Maria Kolbe. Sister Maria Kolbe was a small woman with a ginormous smile! She walked in the room and it lit u! Thanks to her and much prayer, I changed majors…though she was trying to talk me into becoming a nun…that didn’t work out but becoming a teacher like her did! 😉 

Through her I also learned about Carmelite Spirituality and I continued my journey with St. Therese of Liseux (wish me a “Dia de mi Santo”, day of my Saint Name, please it was on October 3rd), my Confirmation name! I’ve read many of her beautiful and sweet books…I become enthralled by them actually. I’ve read Story of a Soul about four times and every time I learn a new lesson – it is no wonder that she was made Doctor of the Church! Last night I was trolling the internet and I bumped into this great article by non-other than the same sisters that were at the Catholic School were my teaching journey commenced! Here are some great prayer tips from a Carmelite Sister:

Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Question: Dear Sister, My prayer experiences don’t seem good enough or holy enough, long enough or intense enough. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can pray better?

Answer: Dear Friend, Yes, I do have a few suggestions. That’s easy…

First of all, I suggest not using the expression “prayer experiences” at all. Hit the delete button on that one. A lot of people tend to speak about their prayer experiences. To me, it’s not the best choice of words. I believe that to use the expression “prayer experience” lessens, or taints my prayer. Prayer isn’t just “an experience.” It is so much more.

I actually went to the dictionary to check out the word “experience” in order to respond to this question and was amazed to see the long list of definitions:

  1. involvement in something over time.
  2. knowledge or skill that is acquired.
  3. the sum total of somebody’s experiences
  4. something that happens to somebody
  5. knowledge from observation.
  6. to have personal knowledge of something
  7. to feel something.

All these definitions are right and good – in their proper place, but not for a description or explanation of prayer. Why?

To Carmelites, prayer is relationship. It is time spent with Someone you love. It is that coming to know Another in a deeper way – to pray is to speak and then to listen; to communicate on a more personal and profound level and to grow in understanding, respect and appreciation of the other. St. Teresa of Avila puts it this way. “Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart conversation with Him, Who we know loves us” (Life, viii).

Not good enough or holy enough? Not long enough or intense enough? It is one way of looking at it, but it makes me think of asking you a question. What does love look like? Does it not have a thousand faces? The face of love can sit quietly in sorrow, sympathy and compassion. Or it can radiate with joy and laughter and grimace in steadfast, faithful determination. When someone truly falls in love, I don’t think there should be, or are, such questions. They minimize and actually detract from the power of loving. To be with, to share with, to companion the One you love is love. Love is more than an experience. Well, love is love.

This same concept can be applied to prayer. God and I, as impossible as it seems and as unworthy as I see myself, can be in relationship – just as any person to another. It is mind-boggling to think about. It is actually THE relationship for which I was created. The Baltimore Catechism put it this way.

Q.  Why did God make you?
A.  God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.

That is a very personal answer, it seems to me. It summarizes the reason for our existence. I am reminded of a phrase in our profession of vows when we make our perpetual profession to God. The entire formula of vows is very beautiful, but the expression that comes to mind right now is the following – “in intimacy with God through prayer.” Yes, that’s it. That says it.

There is a four volume book set, Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD. It is a Carmelite classic on prayer. The original was one thick book and has now been broken down into the four volume set. Note the name. It is the same concept; however Father Gabriel doesn’t say Divine Relationship or Divine Friendship. No, his classic goes straight to the core, the height, the goal, which is intimacy. Just to meditate on this thought is a very fruitful meditation.

So, now to come more directly to your question, you don’t need to feel holy, or good, or any feeling. A dad doesn’t feel good getting up before dawn to get ready to go to work. A mom doesn’t feel good about taking care of her children when she herself is ill and would rather be in bed. A nun doesn’t feel so great, either, getting up before dawn to pray. But, ah! This is love. We do this out of our love, for the one we love, and ah! … that also is prayer.

I think we could sum up St. John of the Cross by saying that it is our WILL which chooses, what we see, what we hear, what we do. Our will is at work when we pray. We can will to pray when we don’t feel like it, just as in the examples above of the dad or mom or nun. We’ve heard the expression “suit up and show up.” We can use it, also, for prayer. And if we “suit up and show up” on a daily basis, on both good days and bad days, I would add, that, then, would be a powerful prayer, indeed – the prayer of a friend, who comes to be with God not looking for any gain or consolation, but is content to be with God.

Then, I wouldn’t be surprised if some day, during prayer, you would open your eyes and look at your watch and say, “My God, where did the time go? Can it be that I have been with You so long; it seemed but a few moments.” I can hear St. Teresa of Avila saying, “You are His friend now, His close friend, and He is taking you deeper into Himself in the intimacy with God through prayer. When that happens, the time passes oh so quickly.”

Until next time,

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.

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I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.  I love Carmelites (yes I do pray that my one and only daughter is called to become one, shhh….)

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