Educating the heart, mind, and soul in the Catholic tradition with online classes

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Botany Reading List for Homeschool Families

Botany is not only an interesting study, it's an important study. MacBeth Derham and Christine Hamilton, Homeschool Connections science instructors, have put together a reading list for you that includes fiction and nonfiction for students of multiple ages.

Who is this list for?
  • Homeschool moms putting together a unit study of botany studies for multiple grade levels.
  • Students of Homeschool Connections middle or high school botany courses, who want to explore the subject more deeply on their own or create an additional transcript credit.
  • Anyone who wants to expand their learning.
Books listed are upper-grade school through high school (and adult). Field guides can be used on nature walks. For preschool and early grade school, check the library for early field guides, picture books with fun facts, and books that focus on the geography of the region. 

As with any book list, parental discretion is advised. Not all books are appropriate for all ages or all students.

Click on the book title for reviews or purchasing information (May contain affiliate links). Another resource to read book reviews is Goodreads. And to find used books for the best price, try Book Finder. Now, for that list ... 


American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation by DK

Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America Third Edition (Peterson Field Guides)

Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America (Peterson Field Guides)

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman

Practical Botany for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Botanical Terms Explained and Explored by Geoff Hodge

Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored by Lorraine Harrison

The Forest Unseen By David Haskell

The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean

A Landowner's Guide to Managing Your Woods by Anne Larkin Hansen, Mike Severson, and Dennis L. Waterman

Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
 (Perdita’s flowery soliloquy)

Sonnets by William Shakespeare

Leaf by Niggle by J. R. R. Tolkien (philosophical)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Winding Down the Homeschool Year

We recently received a request from a homeschool mom asking us to offer short 4- to 6-week recorded courses. She was looking for a way to help her fill in some homeschooling holes between April and June. The good news is that we were able to help immediately as we already have a great slate of such short courses.

Here is a list of 4-week and 6-week courses currently available through our Unlimited Access program (recorded courses):

Computer Skills
  • Introduction to Microsoft Word
  • Introduction to PowerPoint
  • Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching
  • American Elections: Democracy in Action
  • Pro-Life Boot Camp: Learning the Facts and Effective Communication
  • The Life and Legacy of St. John Paul II 
  • Foundations of Christian Historiography
  • Christian Architecture through the Ages 
  • The Great Depression: 1929-1941
  • Understanding the Second Vatican Council
  • Preparing for Intermediate Latin Boot Camp
  • Preparing for Advanced Latin Boot Camp
Life Skills
  • How to Be an Excellent Student
  • Introduction to Literature: Why & How to Study Literature
  • Humor in Literature 
  • How to Read Great Literature
  • Narnia for Young Adults: The Theology of The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien for Young Adults: The Theology of Middle-Earth 
  • Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton 
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Beowulf and Christ
  • Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer; Trust God and Tradition
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • The Twelfth Night
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Sophocles and Tragedy
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein: Misunderstood Monster 
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Redemptive Comedy of Flannery O'Connor
  • Introduction to Trigonometry
  • Fallacies and Paradoxes
  • Health, Fitness, and Wellness
Speech & Communication
  • Leadership and Interpersonal Communication
Test Prep
  • The New SAT: What you need to Know to Score Well
  • ACT Test Prep
  • ACT/SAT English and Writing Test Prep
  • Discovering Your Authentic Beauty & Making Life Full and Fun for  Middle School Girls
  • True Radiance! Discovering Your Authentic Beauty as a Young Woman
  • The Trinity Explained
  • The Mass Explained
  • Punctuation & Grammar
  • Excellent Sentences and Paragraphs
  • Excellent Paragraphs and Essays
  • Fiction Writing Series (Creative Writing)
These are all great courses to take in summer as well, especially if you want to keep learning alive between the spring and fall semesters without too big of a commitment.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Top-10 List: Using Online Classes for Summer

Top Ten List
Using Unlimited Access for Summer Learning

No matter where your children go to school in the fall and spring, you are welcomed to take classes with Homeschool Connections this summer. Whether you want your children to get a Catholic perspective on certain subjects, receive some remedial help in an area, or take an upper-level course not available at their school, we're here to help.

Homeschool Connections offers two types of courses that cover a wide span of subjects. Today, let's talk about our recorded, independent-learning courses that you can take at your own pace and on your own schedule. (If you prefer live, interactive classes for summer here is our registration page: Homeschool Connections Registration.)

There are many different ways you can use Homeschool Connections' recorded classes through Unlimited Access to keep learning alive and fun over the summer. Here are ten ideas to get you started ... 

10. Take school with you.
We've had students take classes from hotel rooms, Grandma's house, the library, the car on the road, and even the beach. However, we don't recommend taking your laptop anywhere near sand! All you need for recorded classes is a power source, internet, and a computer. You should add earbuds or a headset to the list if you need privacy.

9. Plug the computer into the television.
This is a really fun way to learn together as a family. Pick a subject that everyone is interested in learning. It may be The Hobbit or World War II or American Sign Language or something completely different. Make some popcorn and watch together. You may need an HDMI cable and a newer TV (Mac users will need a converter). Recently, my teen added Chromecast to our laptop and that's what we use.

8. Pick a time that works best for you.
Recorded classes are available 24/7. You could watch classes first thing in the morning, getting them done early so the rest of the day can be spent outdoors. If you prefer, watch classes during lunch or just before bed in the evening. Pick the time that is going to help you keep up with your work throughout the summer.

7. Audit a course.
Watch a lecture each day and forgo the homework. For example, instead of taking 12 weeks for World History: 12 Inventions that Changed the World, watch the lectures over 12 days. When auditing, pick a subject that is easy for you. 

6. Buckle down on tough subjects.
Need help with algebra? Struggled with science last year? If so, buckle down and get to work. Set aside time each and every day (Sundays off!) and stick to the schedule. Complete all of the homework before moving to the next recorded lecture. If you want extra help, sign up for the optional grading support (Instructor Access).

5. Catch up on subjects for September.
Planning on taking Latin II next year but not quite ready? Perhaps illness or something else kept you from finishing Latin I this year. Whether you simply need a refresher or need to make up for lost time, there are a number of "boot camps" available in recording (math, Latin, and more).

4. Ask yourself, "What do I love?"
For example, do you get geeked about books? If so, choose a literature course on a book you love. Reread Romeo and Juliet as you watch Professor Pearce's lectures over a couple of weeks. Or Scarlet Letter, or Jane Eyre, or Dracula. You can choose from over 50 literature courses.

3. Summer is a great time to hone your writing skills
Writing is a key skill for success in all other school subjects. Focusing on writing skills over summer will help you do better in history, literature, and more when fall arrives. Homeschool Connections writing courses range from basic, foundational courses to advanced, college-preparatory courses. Other courses that help you succeed in core subjects include: How to Be an Excellent Student and How to Use Microsoft Word.

2. Keep a schedule and keep it simple. 
How many times have we all laid out grand plans, only to forget about them as the excitement wore off? Write out a reasonable schedule on a whiteboard or print it and post it. Program your computer or phone to remind you each day. Do something tangible to keep you on schedule.

You don't need a complicated schedule to be effective. Pick just one or two subjects. For example, maybe you weren't able to make time for philosophy in the fall and spring, but you know it would help you a lot to learn it and it sounds interesting. Focus just on philosophy courses for summer.

1. Take courses that raise your heart to God. All of our courses are taught through the lens of the Catholic Church. If you'd like to get the Catholic perspective in history or literature, this is the place. We also offer a wide range of theology and philosophy courses that help students experience God's teaching.

Bonus: Unlimited Access means just that!
You have unlimited access to 275 courses for your entire family. Yes, it's true! You can't beat the price ($30 per month!!!) and you can't beat the convenience. Middle school, high school, and adult students can easily learn year round with this independent learning program. It can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. It's YOUR program.

To learn more about our recorded, online, independent-learning classes, click here now:

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Ultimate List of Family Read Alouds


by Maureen Wittmann

(Scroll on down if you want to get right to the reading list.)

Whenever I speak or write on my favorite topic, The Joy of Reading Aloud, I get the question, "How do I choose good books for a family read-aloud that can be enjoyed by everyone?"
    Choosing books to read aloud when all of your children are under six is easy. It gets complicated when you have children from preschool to high school. What mom with multiple children has time to read multiple books to different children day in and day out? Besides, it's so much more fun to share great books as a family. Finding books loved by children (and adults!) of all ages can be done.

    As a mother of adult children, I promise that it is well worth the time and effort to find read-aloud books for the whole family. There will be family reads that will be remembered fondly by your children in the decades to come. And, most likely, will then be read to your grandchildren.

    I asked a group of Homeschool Connections moms and dads, "What are attributes to consider when looking for a universal read aloud?" Here are the criteria they shared ...
    • Contains honesty, integrity, and virtue.
    • Can be understood at different levels. 
    • Good humor and fun illustrations.
    • Reflects the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. 
    • The universal story of good triumphing over evil.
    • Profound and complex, yet completely accessible to children.
    • An appealing protagonist. Real, relatable characters with depth and dimension.
    • A theme that resonates with all ages.
    • Good, high quality, illustrations.
    • Language that rolls off the tongue well.
    • Language that is challenging, yet not too complex.
    • A storyline that keeps us on our toes.
    • Reaches the "kid at heart". (Adults often like to reminisce about the days when life was carefree.)
    Once you commit to family read aloud time, here are some pointers to help you succeed:
    • Don’t worry about your child not fully understanding a book that is meant for older children due to scholarly language. One, they can learn vocabulary through context. Two, be open to stopping and explaining big words.
    • Age segregation in reading does have its place. After all, children are not ready for a good number of adult topics. However, don't let artificial boundaries or "age appropriate" guidelines from a publisher keep you from enjoying a book between generations. 
    • If a book is only interesting to youngsters because it panders their immaturity (ahem, Captain Underpants) it probably is not a book worthy of family read-aloud time. 
    C.S. Lewis also had a few things to say on the topic of how children's books can appeal to people of all ages ... 
    • “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”
    • "The compartmentalizing of literature into separate categories for children and adults is quite a silly idea. A good writer should be able to write a story in a way that a child can understand, without having to sacrifice the higher qualities that are needed to interest an adult reader. And there are many writers who have done this successfully. We still read and enjoy most of the books that we did when we were children–for different reasons, certainly, but we still do enjoy them!"
    One more important note before we get to our reading list. Many Americans associate "read aloud time" with little children who cannot yet read to themselves. Here are just a few reasons to include older children:
    • Reading aloud helps children with the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Modern media conditions children to have short attention spans.
    • Research shows that children who are read to through the adolescence years do significantly better in vocabulary and comprehension.
    • A child’s reading level typically doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade.
    • Creates family bonds and memories.
    Now for that FAMILY READ ALOUD LIST, created by the Homeschool Connections' parents -- there is a good mix of well-known classics, as well as some fun titles you likely have not heard about before today.

    Click on book titles for reviews or purchasing information (contains affiliate links). Another source for book reviews is Goodreads. To find used books at the best price try BookFinder. Or better yet, print out the list and take it to the public library.

    As with any book list, parental discretion is advised. Not all books are appropriate for all children/families.

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
    Let's start with my favorite all-time read-aloud choice. Every child should have the opportunity to hear Narnia read to them at least once in their life.

    The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    And then let's follow up with THE classic, albeit challenging, read aloud. Though I have to admit to "cheating" on this series -- we listened on Audible.

    The Menagerie of Marsepink by Claudio Salvucci [Arx Publishing]
    This is a short story (just 48 pages) and thoroughly enjoyable. If you're a Nathaniel Hawthorne fan, this may just be up your alley.

    Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
    This is a book you'll find on just about every Charlotte Mason list. Join the Walker family in this series filled with sailing, seamanship, and maritime adventures.

    Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Everyone loves Little House on the Prairie. However, my favorite in this series is Little House in the Big Woods, with Farmer Boy a very close second.

    Father Brown Series by G. K. Chesterton
    Father Brown Readers adapted by Nancy Brown [Hillside Education]
    A great way to introduce the greatest writer of the 20th century to the younger generation.

    Hardy Boys Series by Franklyn Dixon
    Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
    Not exactly great literature, but they are great fun. Make sure you get the classic versions (easy to find used) and not the modern retellings.

    Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
    Hysterically funny, which is why it makes for a good family read aloud.

    City of the Golden House by Madeleine Poland [Hillside Education]
    Set in the time of Nero and Christian persecution, this is a story of a crippled boy and his slave. It's an enduring story of friendship, hope, faith, and the meaning of Christian love.

    Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart
    You can read just the first book. Or ... yes, the whole series is excellent and perhaps even a modern-day classic.

    Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody
    Life on the ranch in the early 1900's. This is a homeschool read-aloud must-have.

    Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
    A good, fun adventure. Don't fret that this is often categorized as a "boy book", the girls will enjoy it too.

    Lion in the Gateway by Mary Renault [Hillside Education]
    If epic battles are your thing, this is your book. In fact, its subtitle is The Heroic Battles of the Greeks and Persians at Marathon, Salamis, and Thermopylae.

    Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth
    This funny and lighthearted book is even more fun when read by Dad (in my opinion at least).

    Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankelweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
    The original "night in the museum" and just as fun.

    Angels in Iron by Nicholas Prata [Arx Publishing]
    An engaging historical fiction that deals with numerous figures from the early Ottoman times, including Suleiman the Magnificent, Piali Pasha, and Dragut the Corsair. (Rumor has it there may be a movie based on this novel coming soon.)

    Search for the Madonna by Donna Alice Patton [Behold Publications]
    If your family enjoys mysteries, Search for the Madonna will grab your attention. It's a fun adventure that will also move you with the heroine's personal faith.

    Misty of Chincoteague
    King of the Wind
    by Marguerite Henry
    Who doesn't love a good horse story? If you enjoy these books by Henry, she has many other horse tales.

    The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
    The classic story of a boy shipwrecked with a wild horse and how they come to rescue one another, in more ways than one.

    Sword of Clontarf by Charles Brady [Hillside Education]
    Between my Irish heritage, interest in Vikings, and love of historical fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this to my children.

    Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    "Anne with an e" will surely find her way into your heart. In fact, I recently listened to this on audio, sans kids, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Follow up with the other Anne books.

    Anything and everything written by E. Nesbit
    My children love, love, love Nesbit ... almost as much as I love her books. Start with The Railway Children, then move to Five Children and It, and have a blast checking out the rest.

    The Outlaws of Ravenhurst by  M. Imelda Wallace S.L. [Neumann Press]
    A gripping story about life in Scotland during the time it was illegal to be a practicing Catholic.

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
    You won't find any other book character like Pippi, who is as lovable as she is strong.

    Green Ember Series by S. D. Smith
    Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival says, "If I could choose only one book for my kids to read this year, this would be it." I'm inclined to agree.

    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    A favorite classic children's story filled with suspense, self-sacrifice, heroes, and, of course, talking rabbits.

    Word to Caesar by Geoffrey Trease [Hillside Education]
    I should just say "anything by Hillside Education" because just about anything you buy from them will be good (ditto for Bethlehem BooksArx Publishing, RC History, and Behold Publications).

    Wizard of Oz Series by L. Frank Baum
    When I read the first book of this series aloud I struggled with it because the movie kept running through my head, which is very different from the book. However, the kids were hooked and went on to read several of the other Oz novels on their own. (There are thirteen altogether.)

    Anything written by George MacDonald
    George MacDonald was one of C. S. Lewis's favorite authors. The Princess and the Goblin is a personal favorite. After reading Narnia, follow with MacDonald.

    The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander
    If fantasy is your genre then this series, based loosely on Welsh myths, is a must-read. I have a special fondness for stories about everyday children who step up the plate, take on leadership, and conquer evil.

    Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
    Explore the world of Zuckerman's Farm along with Fern, Wilbur, Templeton, and, yes, Charlotte. White is a favorite author in my home. Check out Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan too.

    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
    Join Rat, Mole, Badger and Mr. Toad at Toad Hall through their adventures on the river. A timeless and beloved classic.

    Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess
    If you loved reading Beatrix Potter to your littles, you're sure to love reading Thornton Burgess as they get older. This is just one of many of his titles -- read them all if you can.

    Poppy by Avi
    While written for younger children, I think it'll be enjoyed by you and older children too. It's good to mix things up with your family read alouds, moving back and forth from easy to difficult reads and back again.

    The Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum [Bethlehem Books]
    A beloved story set during World War II based on the author's own family -- life at home for the children while Father is off fighting in Europe. It's part of a series that can be read on it's own or all together.

    Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda van Stockum [Bethlehem Books]
    Honestly, anything by Hilda van Stockum fits on this list. If you enjoy Cottage at Bantry Bay, there are sequels you can enjoy too.

    Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
    This is a series of four fantasy novels. It's funny as well as action-packed, complete with lots of wordplay and puns.

    King Arthur and His Knights
    The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
    by Howard Pyle
    The big debate around town is Howard Pyle or Roger Lancelyn Green when choosing King Arthur or Robin Hood. Either works, but Pyle is my personal favorite. I find his works simply enjoyable to read aloud.

    Jules Verne books
    Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, A Journey to the Center of the Earth, and more ... all fun, imaginative stories for families.

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    You'll cry, laugh, and fall in love.  If you enjoy Little Women, and you will, check out Little Men, Eight Cousins, and Jo's Boys.

    The Iron Spy by Joan Stromberg [Behold Publications]
    Set in an 1875 coal mining Pennsylvania town complete with a 12-year-old heroine who takes on the Molly Maguires in her own way. A good, fun mystery as well as historical fiction.

    Little Princess by Frances Hodges Burnett
    An absolutely beautiful story of a wealthy girl left orphaned and penniless. Listeners will be moved by her purity of heart and kindness.

    Tale of Manaeth by Phillip Campbell
    You can read my full review here: Fantasy Novel Review

    Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

    This, IMO, is one of very few novels that have been successfully converted to the screen (via the BBC, 1990-1993). Wooster is not exactly a role model -- thank goodness he has Jeeves to look out for him. Make sure to practice your English accent before taking this on as a read aloud.

    All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
    Another book converted to television by the BBC and enjoyed by my family. Once you've perfected that English accent, you'll roll right through this one. But don't fret if you can't do the accent, this is still a fun read.

    Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales

    Make sure to find a good translation and don't settle for watered-down, Disney versions. Remember though, the original tales can be gruesome and violent.

    Artimus Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    Not your typical 12-year-old, Artemis Fowl kidnaps a fairy in a plot to take over the world. He discovers that fairies are a lot more dangerous than expected. You can read the first book on its own or go for the whole 8-book series.

    The BlueFairy Book (Also The Red Fairy Book and others) by Andrew Lang

    The Blue Fairy Book is the first of twelve fairy stories from Scotsman Andrew Lang. The books are a collection folk and fairy stories across cultures and eras (Grimm Brothers, Arabian Nights, and so on). Again,  some of the tales are gruesome and not for the faint of heart. 

    Tales from Shakespeare by Mary and Charles Lamb
    This is a retelling of several of William Shakespeare's play, written in the early 1800's. My only complaint with this book is that I wish it included more adaptations -- it ended too soon.

    Knights of Art by Amy Steedman (RC History)

    Delightful read-aloud short stories of the lives of Renaissance artists accompanied by full-color reproductions of their works.

    In Closing
    This booklist was created in response to my talks and articles on reading aloud. To learn more, please see this series of articles, which are designed to inspire you as well as equip you for success:
    1. The Joy of Reading Aloud 
    2. The Why of Reading Aloud
    3. The Art of Reading Aloud
    This is quite a long list and yet it is not complete. There are so many others we could add. Let us know your favorites in the comments.

    Author Biography
    Maureen Wittmann is a Catholic homeschooling mother of seven children, five of whom have graduated so far. She and her husband Rob are grandparents to six children and love this new season in their lives.

    Coming soon: Picture books for teens to read to littles.
    For all of our reading lists go here,

    Thursday, January 11, 2018

    Getting Ready to Homeschool High School

    Preparing to Homeschool High School
    A Timeline from 7th to 12th Grade
    Maureen Wittmann

    I am a firm believer in "taking homeschooling one year at a time". If I embarked on this homeschool journey knowing I'd homeschool seven children from birth through high school graduation, it would've been too overwhelming to even consider. Yet, here I am, twenty-something years later, still homeschooling. I committed to just one year at a time and that helped me stay focused on the task at hand. And you can too.

    Think of The Little Engine That Could. Little by little you can accomplish great things -- including taking on your child's k-12 education. Including homeschooling high school.

    With all that said, it is good to do some legwork in advance before embarking on the high school years. If you're considering putting your children into a site-based school for high school, the following steps will help you make that transition as well. However, I encourage you to pray and consider homeschooling high school. It's not as hard as it sounds and it's incredibly rewarding (more on that in an upcoming blog post).

    Prep Work in Middle School
    First, relax. Enjoy these middle years and observe how your child's intellect and spiritual life grows and changes during this period.

    Start talking with your child about special interests. What are his favorite subjects? Make sure you're getting out of the house, getting involved in your local community, and using the real world as your classroom in addition to your book work.

    In the summer between sixth and seventh grade, use this Scope & Sequence form to help you put together your curriculum for the seventh and eighth grades. If your child is behind in any of his subjects, middle school is a good time to address the issue.

    Here are some simple, concrete steps to take during eighth grade to prepare for high school:
    • Research the laws in your state regarding graduation requirements for homeschool students. Laws vary greatly from state to state. 
    • Make a list of your child's strengths and weaknesses
    • Use this High School Scope & Sequence to determine your curriculum for high school.
    • Between 8th and 9th grade finalize curriculum choices for 9th grade (repeat this every year until graduation).
    • Make plans for extra-curricular activities and field trips.
    • Relax and remember that plans can change.
    • Review financial plans for post-secondary education in case student attends college or trade school after graduation.
    High School
    Make sure you're keeping good records throughout the next four years. It doesn't need to be complicated. Spend a few hours each quarter updating your student's transcript (click here: High School Homeschool Transcript)  You can also use this form to keep a record of specific courses or learning outcomes: High School: List of Courses.

    All four years should include extracurricular activities and community work (record them on your student's transcript).

    Ninth Grade
    • Begin the discussion of where your child sees himself after high school graduation. There should be no pressure - now is simply the time to explore the many options available.
    • Do some career studies. Have your student pick three or four careers that she finds intriguing. She should then research the careers and present a report to you that includes information such as 
      • education needed
      • skills required
      • earning potential
      • job satisfaction
      • interviews with people who work in the selected careers
      • a list of high school courses that will provide a solid foundation for future studies.
    • Start a good homeschool writing program that is incremental and will have you ready for advanced writing by your student's senior year.
    Tenth Grade
    • Revise/adjust curriculum.
    • Begin investigating possible colleges or trade schools. 
      • What are the entrance requirements?
      • What high school courses must be completed?
      • What kind of recordkeeping do they require from homeschoolers?
      • Do they accept dual-enrollment, AP, and/or CLEP credits?
      • What is their timetable for acceptance and scholarships?
    • Research dual-enrollment programs and requirements. You may be required to take college-entrance exams early.
    • Start researching scholarship possibilities.
    Eleventh Grade
    • Revise/adjust curriculum.
    • Take the PSAT.
    • Begin CLT, ACT, and/or SAT test prep. Take the college-entrance exam of your choice in the spring.
    • Start dual-enrollment, AP, or CLEP courses if they are in your plan.
      • Set yourself up for success and do not take on too much college-level work.
      • Courses can be local or online.
    • Schedule visits to tour prospective post-secondary schools. 
    Twelfth Grade
    • Revise/adjust curriculum.
    • Retake the CLT, ACT, and/or SAT in the fall. 
    • Finalize post-secondary applications early in the school year, if not already done.
    • Some students, once accepted into a post-secondary school will slack off on studies. Keep on top of your student and make sure grades don't slide.
    • Finalize scholarships and speak with the financial counselor at the post-secondary school if applicable.
    • Finalize apprenticeships.
    • Continue dual-enrollment, AP, or CLEP courses if they are in your plan.
    • Complete the FAFSA (if attending college) in January.
    • This is the year of deadlines -- pay attention to deadlines and mark your calendar.
    Of course, include your student in all these steps. Get him a planner and have him mark important dates, including deadlines, testing dates, course completion dates, test prep dates, etc.

    Let us know in the comments what you would add to this checklist, or what you would do differently.

    Friday, December 8, 2017

    7+ Great Gift Ideas for Dad

    By Maureen Wittmann

    I've posted a few items recently on gift ideas for Mom. But what about Dad? We can't forget him! Here are some fun ideas for the Catholic homeschool man in your life. Nix that. Here are some fun ideas for all the boys and men in your life ...

    These are some manly man rosaries. They're definitely not made for girly girls. I've bought a few of these myself as gifts and they are everything they promise to be: high quality and rugged. Visit the website to see the wide variety of offerings, including some sweet rugged pendants and pocket saints in addtion to paracord & WWI rosaries, chaplets, and compact rosaries.

    This is my favorite all-time coffee. It's also a nice way to support a community of Carmelite monks living in Wyoming. You can be guaranteed your coffee is not only roasted with expertise, but also with a prayer and with love. Mystic Monk also sells tea and coffee mugs. For Christmas, check out the Jingle Bell and Christmas blends.

    For all things related to G. K. Chesterton -- mostly his books. It's hard to recommend which book to gift as they're all excellent. I suggest browsing and seeing what piques your interest. You will also find miscellaneous gift items in the ACS store. The best gift from ACS is a membership in the Society, which includes a subscription to the print magazine Gilbert! Yes, there are still print magazines around, and this is one you'll look forward to finding in your mailbox.

    Okay, I usually equate Holy Heroes with great items for my young children. However, they have a lot more than that in their catalog. A few ideas for you ... A holy water flask and keychain You never know when you'll need holy water, whether for an evening blessing or a nightmare soothing. You can also get a companion book by Fr Theiler about holy water its uses to go with either the flask or keychain or get this set of books, which are inspiring and instructive.

    Yes, the awesome blog, The Art of Manliness, also has a store. There are all kinds of great items here from manly shaving kits to T-shirts to Zippo lighters to mugs to a whole line of books and more. There's even an Art of Manliness podcast. You can sign up HERE.

    And, if you're looking for books for your guy, check out 100 Books Every Man Should Read (includes convenient links to ordering information) from the Art of Manliness blog.

    I haven't ordered anything from this site ... yet. It's fun just checking out all the different crates from home brewing to weightlifting (pictured) to jerky and so much more. And the prices aren't as hefty as I had expected. From their About Us page, "We believe men deserve better gifts. Gifts that stir a primal craze of chest bumps and cheers, not polite half-smiles. We believe gifts should be just as exciting to give as they are to receive; the gifts of water cooler legend."

    100 MOVIES
    If the man in your life loves movies, here's a list of "100 Best Catholic Films for Christmas." You will have to do some searching to find ordering information, but it'll be worth it.

    We hope you'll find this list inspiring and helpful as you seek out just the right gift for the men in your life, young and old. Please let us know your suggestions in the comments!

    Thursday, December 7, 2017

    Top-Ten Stocking Stuffers for the Homeschool Mom

    Remembering Mom Christmas Morning

    This is a top-ten list just for the husbands and children of homeschool mothers. If your family is like mine, Christmas morning begins with the discovery of filled-to-the-brim stockings in front of the hearth, left by St. Nicholas. Well, all are filled to the brim ... except for Mom's stocking. After all, she's the one who usually handles the bulk of the Christmas shopping.

    Here are some simple, inexpensive ideas for you to help make Mom's Christmas morning a little more special. Coordinate with St. Nick to include some of these stocking stuffers just for her ...

    (Need gift ideas for under the tree? Go here: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Homeschool Moms)

    1. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
    2. School supplies: Sharpies, gel pens, post-it notes, highlighters, and/or memory stick.
    3. Gift cards! One for take-out, giving her a kitchen-free night. Or one for the movies if that's her thing. Or, how about a spa day?!
    4. Homemade coupon for a night alone, sans kids, for lesson planning or whatever she wants to do (alone!). Or coupons for extra help with chores.
    5. Chocolate. Oh wait, I already listed that. Oh well, give her more chocolate.
    6. Her favorate lotion or cologne. Or scented candle (small enough to fit into a stocking.)
    7. Handwritten note: "Why my mom is special to me", "Top-ten reasons my mom is awesome", or "Why I'm still madly in love with my wife(!)".
    8. Special Christmas ornament. It can be handmade or store bought. However, if it's store-bought, make sure it has special meaning for Mom.
    9. On online membership to Amazon Prime, Audible, Netflix, or Hulu
    10. A card with your commitment to pray for your mom. Slide in a prayer card or medal with the written promise.
    The gifts don't need to be perfect. It really is the thought that counts. It's special to have something to open Christmas morning. All these little things will add up to a lot in your mom's heart. 

    Let us know your ideas for stuffing Mom's Christmas stocking in the comments!

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017

    16 Easy Chapter Books to Encourage Emerging Readers

    by Maureen Wittmann

    I've written a few booklists recently that went viral. Booklists of read alouds for young boys and girls. But what about books children can read on their own? Chapter books that make them feel a little more grown up?

    Those of you who know me, know I have a special love for picture books. I believe they have great value and they should not be put aside even when our little children become big children. However, many picture books are created to be read by parents, not grade school children themselves. Today, let's focus on some easy books that our emerging readers can hold in their hands and feel confident. Let them read aloud to you for a change.

    Make sure to mix it up -- hard books interspersed with easier books. The hard books will challenge them and the easy books will give them confidence. End any lesson with the easy book so that your child finishes feeling upbeat about reading.

    Start with phonetic readers (first three on the list below) as they will tie into your phonics / phoneme lessons. Only follow with easy chapter books after your child has a solid foundation of reading skill. This is because you don't want to train them to be "sight readers". If their books include too many words they can't yet sound out, you could end up discouraging them instead of encouraging them.

    Many of the books on this list can be found easily at the public library. When picking your books from the library shelf, check out similar titles. Most of these books are just one of a series -- see what else is in the library from a favorite series. This way your child can actively choose books to read on her own, and will take a more active (and fun!) role in her education.

    Some of these are fairly long and your child may only read a portion of the book at each sitting. Don't go too long if your child is struggling. Get a special bookmark to save your child's place. This is good practice for future reading. (PS I would not buy these as digital books as the illustrations may not be included or may be of lower quality.)

    If you click on the book titles below, they will take you to reviews and order information. (Some contain affiliate links.) If you end up purchasing online through these links, check the ordering pages for "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" or check out other books by the same author. This way you can discover even more book ideas for your child.
    PS If you're looking for a good reading program, especially if you have a struggling reader, I highly recommend True North Reading
    We'll start with a few, simple phonetic readers and then move to easy chapter books, which are listed in order of difficulty.


    Bob Books by Bobbie Maslen [Scholastic Books]
    You don't get more basic than Bob Books. They are perfect (IMO) for children just learning how to read. These were especially helpful for my struggling readers as they are so very simple.

    Little Stories for Little Folks by Nancy Nicholson [Catholic Heritage Curricula]
    I'm a CHC and Nancy Nicholson fan. Stories are printed on 8½"x11" sheets your child can fold into little booklets. I would reward my child by letting him color the booklet once he mastered reading it. Note: It appears that you can no longer purchase just the readers and have to buy the whole phonics program.

    Little Angel Readers by Linda Bromeyer [Stone Tablet Press]
    These are personal favorites of mine. They are very colorful and faith-filled. I used Little Angel Readers with all seven of my children and plan to pass them down to my grandchildren.

    Hop on Pop (I Can Read It All By Myself) by Dr. Seuss, 72 p.
    Dr. Seuss's first published book, The Cat in the Hat, like Hop on Pop, was a beginning reader, designed to be read by the child, not the parent. It was one solution to the ever-boring Dick and Jane books. They were intended to promote the "Look-Say" method of reading. I'm no a fan of look-say, but Hop on PopThe Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, One Fish Two Fish ... and Seuss's other beginning readers still have a place on my shelf.

    Go, Dog. Go! (I Can Read It All By Myself, Beginner Books) by P.D. Eastman, 72 p.
    I still remember reading this and Are You My Mother as a child. They were my favorite books and P. D. Eastman probably played a part in my love of the written word. Published in 1961 it still plays well today. Other Eastman titles include Big Dog Little Dog, The Best Nest, and Flap Your Wings.

    Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail (I Can Read Level 1) by James Horvath, 32 p.
    Cute little chapter book for your animal lover or LEGO builder.

    I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith, 36 p.
    This one is illustrated by P. D. Eastman, though not authored by him. It's a fun rhyming book that also covers the importance of vocabulary and learning new things.

    Henry And Mudge First Book by Cynthia Rylant, 40 p.
    Part of the Ready to Read series and first in Rylant's Henry and Mudge series. Sweet story about a boy and his dog.

    Kate Skates (Penguin Young Readers Level 2) by Jane O'Connor, 32 p.
    If you're a Wittmann, you skate. So, this was one of the first easy chapter books assigned to my children in grade school.

    Adventures of Frog and Toad (I Can Read Series) by Arnold Lobel, 76 p.
    A collection of stories about best friends. A classic that's been around almost 50 years.

    Adventures of Little Bear (An I Can Read Book) by Else Holmelund Minaret, 160 p.
    This is a collection of three Little Bear stories. This was a definite favorite when my children were little. If you're a fan of the TV show, it's a must to own.

    Adventures of Amelia Bedelia (I Can Read Series) by Peggy Parish, 64 p.
    I still laugh every time I think of Amelia Bedelia. These easy chapter books are simply a hoot. Amelia is silly and fun. And, boy, can she make a great pie!

    Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, 80 p.
    This is the story of "the world's greatest detective". It's a fun introduction to mystery stories for grade school children. Today Nate. Tomorrow Father Brown.

    A Bargain For Francis (I Can Read Level 2) by Russell Hoban, 64 p.
    A sweet little story about what it means to be a friend, a real friend.

    Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Step into Reading, Step 3) by Shirley Raye Redmond, 48 p.
    A fun book that combines American history with reading practice. Other American history titles in this series, and at Level 3, we enjoyed are Abe Lincoln's Hat and Sam the Minute Man.

    Greg's Microscope (I Can Read Level 3) by Millicent E. Selsam, 64 p.
    I originally bought this book for no other reason than my emerging reader at the time is named Greg. However, it turned out to be a nice book to supplement our science lessons in addition to providing reading practice. 

    So, there you have it. These are just the tip of the iceberg -- please share your favorites in the comments below.

    A side note on audiobooks: I'm a big fan of audiobooks. However, I would not invest the time or money in audio editions of these books unless you'd like your child to listen while they read the physical book. The suggested books here do not bring great literary value to the table. They are simply useful for reading practice. Personally, I save my audio budget (or time borrowing from the library) for Narnia and Middle Earth.

    Thursday, November 30, 2017

    Advent and Christmas Read Alouds for the Whole Family

    15 Advent and Christmas Read Alouds for the Whole Family
    by Maureen Wittmann

    The start of Advent is just days away -- time to get to the library and grab some books to enjoy as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I've put together a list of favorite Advent and Christmas books to help you and yours celebrate the season through read-aloud time.

    The key to a good family read-aloud book is its ability to appeal to a range of ages. Everyone should look forward to Family Reading Time, from the five-year old to the fifteen-year old to the fifty-year old. It can be tricky finding good books that meet the criteria of all those age groups, but it can be done. Following are just a few ideas for you.

    Let's start with chapter books. I followed with a classic short story and ended with a few picture books that can still be enjoyed by everyone. Or, better yet, have your teens can read them to your littles. (Note: the book title links are affiliate links.) I encourage you to share your favorites in the comments.

    A Merry Christmas: And Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott (160 p.)
    A lovely nineteenth-century collection of Christmas stories from the Little Women author. A terrific choice for a multiple-aged reading.

    Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (128 p.)
    Tolkien wrote a series of Father Christmas letters to his children over the years and now we get to enjoy them too. Make sure to have Christmas music playing in the background as you read this one.

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (120 p.)
    If you haven't picked up A Christmas Carol since childhood you really should give it a consider. You'll be amazed at how well it rolls off the tongue. Dickens had a good sense of humor, which makes it fun to read as well.

    A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder (144 p.)
    This book takes all the Christmas stories from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series and puts them into one book. If you already own the full series, you can pull out the Christmas stories yourself. Though this would be a great gift for someone who hasn't been introduced yet to Little House.

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (128 p.)
    A humorous, yet heartwarming, story of a Christmas pageant almost gone wrong. I know a number of families who have an annual tradition of reading this aloud during family time.

    The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle (56 p.)
    A sweet Advent story from L'Engle's Austin family series. Each day of December is special and full of preparation for the Austin family. But this year, there's something different going on ...

    Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (40 p.)
    A classic tale of giving and receiving. I remember being profoundly affected by this story as a child and love sharing it with my own children today.

    The Huron Carol by Saint Jean de Brebeuf (32 p.)
    The Huron Carol was written by St. Jean de Bregeuf, Jesuit missionary to the Huron and North American martyr. It is known as the first American Christmas carol and was originally written in the Huron language.

    The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan (32 p.)
    One of my favorite Christmas picture books, this is the story of a Russian village, a deserted church, and an icon of St. Nicholas. It is a story of hope.

    The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola (32 p.)
    From the publisher, "In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside."

    The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola (32 p.)
    The beautiful Hispanic Christmas tradition of Las Posadas — Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in preparation for Jesus's birth.

    Little House Picture Book: Christmas in the Big Woods  (32 p.)
    Taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, this is a delightful picture book with lovely illustrations. We own the full set of these books, but then we have a daughter named after Wilder.

    Bambinelli Sunday by Amy Welborn (32 p.)
    Bambinelli Sunday is an Italian Advent tradition were the faithful bring the Christ Child from their Nativity to the Pope to be blessed during the noon Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent. This is a sweet story of a boy and the faith lessons he learns from his grandfather.

    Lucia Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde (32 p.)
    A well-written and nicely illustrated biography of St. Lucy, whose feast day falls on December 13th. It's a great day to learn about St. Lucy, light some candles, and enjoy some St. Lucy bread.

    For more book suggestions, plus ideas to integrate picture books into the celebration of Christmas, check out Christmas Mosaic, An Illustrated Book Study for Advent and Christmas by Cay Gibson [Hillside Education].

    Let us know your favorite Advent and Christmas books in the comments!