"'Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
'Those first-born affinities,
That fit our new existence to existing things.'"

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education
with a quote from The Prelude by William Wordsworth

Sunday, September 18, 2011

World War II

This is the subject Ds#1 wanted to study this year.  With Memoir '44 being his favorite board game it was hardly a surprise.  Between what I already had and the recommendations in For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann (which I now have on my Kindle), I was able to easily put a unit together.

For spines I have several books. World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Richard Panchyk; and America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II) by William J. Bennett.  (I see that a Volume III is coming out next month covering 1988 to 2008.)  I also have a couple of OOP books for younger kids: The First Book of World War II by Louis L. Snyder and America Moves Forward by Gerald W. Johnson.

The Landmark Book series has a lot of titles on the subjects.  I own eleven of them, plenty to keep my kids reading.  If you are not familiar with this series, they are non-fiction books told in a story format.  They have too much fact to be historical fiction yet the details in the dialogs, for example, are made up.  I suppose you can consider them on the factual end of historical fiction.

Bethlehem books has quite a few WWII historical fiction titles that my boys are enjoying, like Penny for a Hundred for Ds#3, The Secret War of Sergent Donkey for Ds#2, and Enemy Brothers for Ds#1.  We own these.

Some of Maureen's recommendations include Twenty and Ten by Claire Hutchet Bishop.  We were able to borrow Miracle at Moreaux, the film based on it.  She also listed Against the Dayan out of print book by Michael Cronin that turns out to be the first in a series of three that can still be gotten cheaply through used book sellers. We're waiting for them to arrive.  She recommends some great picture books that I got from the library like The Snow Goose and The Secret Seder.

I purchased Saint Maximilian Kolbe: Mary's Knight by Patricia E. Jablonski and Saint Edith Stein: Blessed by the Cross by Mary Lea Hill, both in the Encounter the Saints series.  I even found a 1959 biography of Pope Pius XII by Richard Cushing in the juvenile section of a local library, though it was also in a college collection.  At 180 pages maybe Ds#1 could read it, but I'll have to read through it first.

I've put my husband on the task of recommending some classic WWII movies--John Wayne comes to mind but I am sure there's many more.  So far Ds#1 is reading the historical fiction faster than I can get them in, and that's a good predicament to be in.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Visit to the Seminary

 As you can see by the picture above, our homeschool co-op has a LOT of boys.  Two families could not make the trip, one with 3 boys and the other with 3 boys and 3 girls.  Our group "adopted" a seminarian when he first came to our diocese from Colombia last year, and this was our first chance to meet him in person. Our adopted seminarian is the first man on the left, and his fellow Colombian seminarians are next to him.  The third man has been here only 3 weeks, yet he has done well in his struggle to master English (after already learning Latin, Greek, and Italian.)  They provided the pizza while we brought the salads and desserts.  They were just a delight to spend time with; our group had a wonderful time.  With all the "noise" in our society, we were blessed to add this experience to all the other vocation options our children see to help them discern to what vocation God will call them.  I can't wait to go back!

Constitution Day book

Eva March Tappan's book, The Story of Our Constitution, would make for some great reading for today, Constitution Day.  You can read the entire text online at Heritage History or download the pdf from Google Books.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maps from Heritage History

I have written about Heritage History, one of my favorite places for online history and literature books in the public domain.  Besides viewing the books online for free, you can purchase an eBook for a Kindle or other reader for only $1.99 each.

Well, I just found another wonderful resource on their web sites. They have collected a whole series of large, color, historical maps onto their Heritage History Maps page so they can be downloaded.  They are organized by a variety of geographic an cultural categories: African, American, Asian, British, Christian, European, Greek, Hispanic, Moslem, Norse, Roman, and World.  The page lists the region, year (that that map is depicting, not when it was published), and description.  It's an online historical atlas that is a wonderful addition to our history studies!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

That Resource Site $50 Giveaway

Have you visited That Resource Site for free printables, lapbooks, lesson plans, or articles?  Their collection is large and growing!  And they have quite a give-away underway: a $50 gift certificate to Amazon.  You can enter up to 4 times by writing a blog post (like this), subscribing to their feed, liking their FB page, or simply leaving a comment about their site.  Of course publicizing it decreases my chance, but that's O.K.--That Resource Site is worth telling people about.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival

It is time for the August edition of the Hands On Homeschool blog carnival!  As the new school year quickly approaches, these entries are sure to inspire you.

Laura Grace Weldon presents Save Moments In A Memory Jar posted at Laura Grace Weldon.

Pamela presents Dinosaurs and Crazy Ladies at Lake Powell as well as Besides the tent posted at Blah, Blah, Blog.

Jen presents Sorting, Matching, and Pattern Fun posted at Frugal Kids.

Nikki presents Finding maths moments.... posted at Our Journey in Him.

Shirley Ann Vels presents New Planner posted at Under An English Sky

And I present Charles, Boyle, Divers, and Balloons posted at At Home Science. Be sure to check out other activities to go with the Science of the Universe middle school physics series by clicking on the Our House tab under the banner.

A great line up considering it is August.  Thank you for letting me be your host this month.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Homeschooling with eReaders

I bought a Kindle just before Christmas, and Ds#1 received one as a gift. I planned to integrate them into our homeschooling and they have been very useful. To get the most use out of an eReader you need to understand the difference between a scanned book and a digital book.

Scanned book are just pictures of each page of a book; the actual words on the page have not been "digitized."  These are the books you get from Google Books and Open Library.  These two sources have the most books, and they can be used on eReaders that can read pdf, but they are a bit trickier to use.
First, do not convert them to an ebook format.  A program tries to "read" the picture and digitize the words but they are filled with spelling errors.

Another option I use is to put the scanned book on the Kindle, though the print is rather small in the portrait (upright) position.  Because it is a scanned book you can't enlarge the font; but you can change the display to landscape (sideways) and the scanned page enlarges enough to make it easily legible.  The pages are sluggish to turn, and to can't use the bookmarks, dictionary or highlighter, but you do have access to a large library of free books that you don't have to read on a computer screen.

Digital books are for what eReaders were made, and the number of free digital books is growing.  Project Gutenberg and Many Books are two great sources (Many Books gets all their digital books from Project Gutenberg and audio books from Librivox but it is easier to use, IMHO.)  You can download books in a variety of formats to read on whatever eReader you have.  Selections from Tappan, Eggleston, Marshall (check both H.E. and Henrietta Elizabeth), Fabre, Colum, Chesterton, Belloc, and several of the titles I discuss on A Private Eye Nature are available.  While not quite free, Heritage History offers their eBooks, many of which are not available elsewhere, for only $1.99 each.

If you have a Kindle you can also order free books directly from the Free eBooks Collection at the Amazon.com Kindle store.  (Interestingly, Amazon lists the same sources I mention here, though I used them long before Kindles hit the market.) Some of these are formatted so badly that it is distracting.  If you are thinking about buying an inexpensive older book that has been converted to the Kindle format, I suggest downloading a sample and check the formatting first.

The Ignatius Bible: Revised Standard Version - Second Catholic EditionAs for eBooks for which I actually pay, I have had a mixed experience.  Kindle prices are far better than any hardcover price, especially new-releases.  I have purchased a number of Catholic titles that I have long wanted to read because of the cost savings, like the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament for only $9.99As for paperbacks, sometimes the Kindle price is only marginally less, or even more expensive, so used paperbacks are often cheaper.  This gives rise to the dilemma of buying cheaper, used paperbacks that don't really hold up well or an eBook that requires no storage and will not fall apart?

Buying eBooks for my pre-teen kids is even more limited.  Any picture book is out of the question unless they have black-and-white line drawings.  The vast majority of popular books are pure twaddle (I'll get them from the library I must) or worse if they are morally corrupting. Many of the small Catholic presses do not offer digital versions of their books.  This may change soon, though, as evidenced by Bethlehem Books releasing some of their offerings as eBooks. (Note that this link goes to an eBook search for Bethlehem Books; while all the books they publish are on the list, other books not from them will also appear as you scroll through the pages.)  Also Sophia Institute Press has some books available and plans to expand their Kindle offerings.

While a variety of eReaders are on the market, I prefer the e-ink technology (like a Kindle) to the backlit readers (color Nook or tabets.) Intensely reading and illuminated computer screen is hard on the eyes and the light can interfere with sleep patterns.  Having to find an external lighting source at night is fine with me, and I can read in bright sunlight easily.

Ultimately, my children are the ones that have made our Kindle experience a good one.  They definitely prefer digital books to scanned books, but they prefer the eReader to the computer screen (usually); they even prefer digital books to paper books, but would rather have paper than scanned.   The portability is excellent, especially if you are concurrently reading multiple books; and you always have your bible with you.  You can quickly check the meaning of words you don't know (so the kids may actually do this every now and again if asked).  You can add notes, too, using the somewhat cumbersome but functional keyboard; I often share annotated highlights on Facebook and Twitter right from my Kindle.  And I have saved a lot of money and time by not printing out books too long to read on the computer.

If you are really dedicated to your eReader, you can convert scanned images and then correct the spelling errors before converting it to an eReader format.  If ever I do that I'll be sure to post them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The War of the Vendee

Navis Pictures is the genius behind St. Bernadette of Lourdes, the film with a cast of all children, most of them homeschooled.  Our family is very excited about the new film with a similar cast coming this fall: The War of the Vendee.

You can read the Wikipedia article, War in the Vendee, to get a general overview of the event depicted in the film.  This would make an outstanding suppliment to a study of the French Revolution, but why wait to enjoy something this good?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have put together a reading schedule for studying some Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War.  You can access the pdf schedule here on Google Documents.
Of course you can substitute your favorites on your bookshelves or available through your library for anything that I have listed.  That's the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

US History--the Revolutionary War

We finished the colonization of the United States and now we are moving into the Revolutionary War.  I am focusing more on personalities rather than events, along with some great character formation.  I have not planned out this unit as well as the last yet, but here is what I have put together.

I am reading American Hero Stories by Eva March Tappan to Ds#3.  Eleven chapters cover inspiring people and events of the Revolution.  We are also reading the shorter Jean Fritz biographies in my home library, while ds#2 is reading the longer titles, Why Not, Lafayette?Early Thunder, and Traitor: the Case of Benedict Arnold We're also using another favorite author of ours, F. N. Monjo (5 short books for Ds#1 and one long one for Ds#2 and Ds#3.)

We are continuing to use An Elementary History of the United States (for ds#1 and #2) by Eva March Tappan, but only 4 chapters relate to the time period we're covering.  This book will give the boys the basics of the events of the Revolutionary War.

Along with those chapters they will also continue reading The Catholic Pioneers of America by John O'Kane Murray.  Seven biographies are relevent to our time period, from Casimir Pulaski to Lafayette.  Included is the longest survivor of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll. Other signers accused him of having less courage than they did because so many other Maryland citizens had his same name, and so he added to his signature, "of Carrollton," to be sure the king knew which one.  This book continues to enrich our US History studies from which Catholic accomplishments are typically excluded.

Ds#3 has started the Treegate Series by Leonard Wibberley from Bethlehem Books, starting with John Treegate's Musket  Each of the three books in the series are available as a Kindle edition for only 3.95 each.  The other two books are Peter Treegate's War followed by Sea Captain from Salem (Treegate)

We own and enjoy many of William Bennett's books and so I pulled Our Country's Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People.  We'll skip the second chapter, "Love and Courtship," unless we have time at the end since the boys will be far more interested in the other topics at this point in their lives.

I was looking at what they needed to read for this week and I noticed at the end of Israel Putnam at Bunker Hill is the note, "Adapted from Eva March Tappan, American Hero Stories."

Friday, April 22, 2011

PandaMania Warning

Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) is a wonderful Catholic publishing company that is widely respected.  This year they release a Totally Catholic Summer Program (what our Protestant friends refer to as VBS) called PandaMania.  This is a Catholic rendering of the highly popular VBS programs put out by the Protestant company, Group.  What I am about to write does not apply to their version of the program.

Our parish decided to use OSV's PandaMania, and we were very excited initially, that is, until we started looking into the details.  The two most objectionable portions are the People of Faith cards and Connecting Kids to Justice.

The first of the People of Faith cards is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.  Ever hear of him?  He's a Jesiut priest that has a lot of excellent scientific writings worth reading (the pope has said so); he is also in serious disagreement with the Church when it comes to his theology.  The Holy See has issued a Monitum regarding his work that includes the following:

"For this reason, the most eminent and most revered Fathers of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers.” [Emphasis added]

Call me crazy, but an elementary summer school program does not seem like the place to introduce Teilhard.

As for Connecting Kids to Justice, it focuses on the Catholic Climate Covenant put together by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.  This coalition consists of 12 organizations affiliated with some of the most notorious Church dissenters.  Here is a sampling:

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.  This organization has failed to concern itself with the moral decline of “Catholic” colleges.  See here and here.

Carmelite NGO.  While the Carmelite Order is wonderful, the Carmelite NGO supports UN initiatives to advance abortion and birth control services.  The Carmelite NGO fully supports the UN Millennium Goals and lists them on their web site.  If you click on #5 Improve Maternal Health it brings you UN Millennium Goals website.  Article 5.6 lists an unmet need for family planning.  The Carmelite NGO was a co-sponsor of the standing room only side event titled Consumption and the Rights of Mother Earth held at the UN on May 11, 2010.  The website mentions nothing about the rights of the unborn child.

Catholic Health Association of the United States.  The president of this organization is Sister Carol Keehan, who supported ObamaCare in defiance of the USCCB, and supported St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix after Bishop Olmstead sanctioned it for performing abortions.

Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  This organization champions major dissidents of the Church, including Sr. Jeannine Gramick who spoke at their 2010 Leadership Conference.  This is the organization that led to several religious orders to ask for a different leadership organization be formed, The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious and Conference of Major Superiors of Men (another coalition member) held a joint conference in 2004 in which the keynote speaker was abortion advocate Mary Robinson.

As part of the program, they won't recite the Creed but your children will take this evironmental pledge:

You can see the slides for all 5 days here (scroll to the bottom for the PowerPoints.)  There's a lot of coaching your kids to go home and tell you how to behave.  Could you imagine if we had a TCSP that told kids to go home at tell their parents that they are committing a mortal sin if they don't attend Mass on Sunday?  Well, I know that might seem like a good idea, but would it be received as charity the way this environmentalism push is?

It seems to me that these organizations worship at the altar of politics dressed in Catholic social teachings.  They take something that honest Catholics may be concerned about, like environmental stewardship, poverty, health care, or immigration and use it as a front to advance their political agenda that usually undermines Church teaching and authority.  If anyone is going to indoctrinate my kids, I will; that's why I homeschool.

This is not the only alternative. Cat. Chat VBS has three wonderful programs, one on the Sacraments, one on the Mass, and one on The Blessed Mother.  Catholic Heritage Curriculum offers 4 great Children's Retreats/VBS programs as well.