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

Faith ~ Excellence ~ Passion

Thursday, April 2, 2020

4-Year Cycle: Medieval Historical Era (Live, Online Classes)


ANNOUNCING: Homeschool Connections' four-year cycle for live, interactive courses ...

In response to requests from students and their parents, Homeschool Connections has organized a four-year cycle of coordinated courses for all students in your family, third through twelfth grade. This is so your entire family can learn about the same era at the same time, making life easier for parents and making school more fun for children. (We also offer alternate courses, not in the cycle.)

The four-year cycle includes:
  • Grade-school unit studies: 3rd through 6th grade (reading list and suggested activities provided for pre-k to 2nd siblings)
  • Middle-school history and literature courses: 6th through 8th grade
  • High-school history, literature, and philosophy courses: 9th through 12th grade
The four eras in the cycle are:
  • Ancient (taught live in 2019/2020 and now available as a recorded, independent-learning unit)
  • Medieval (starting Fall 2020)
  • Renaissance through Modern (starting Fall 2021)
  • American (starting Fall 2022)
NOTE: If you prefer recorded, independent-learning courses, this is already available through our Unlimited Access program. For a list of Unlimited Access courses available and how they fit into the four-year cycle click here.

For the upcoming 2020/2021 school year, we are offering courses based on Medieval History in addition to our regular slate. Here are the live, interactive courses now open for you to get started on learning together as a family ...

-- Grade School. The online grade school unit study program is based on TAN Books' Story of Civilization. The unit study is geared for third through sixth grade and will include religion, history, language arts, and science. For 2020/2021 we are adding a creative writing course for 3rd to 6th grade with a Medieval theme. Taught by Jackie deLaveaga. Registration is open HERE.
  • Unit Studies
  • Creative Writing
-- Middle School. Click on the course title to learn more or register:

-- High School. Click on the course title to learn more or register:
We also offer all levels of Latin. Search our registration page to find the right course for you or email us for a free Latin placement test.

READING LIST FOR PRE-K TO 2ND GRADE: Make sure to include your pre-k to 2nd grade children too! Here is a picture book list for the Medieval period from Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival, https://readaloudrevival.com/middle-ages. We also recommend For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects by Maureen Wittmann for age-appropriate reading.

Have your older children read aloud to your little children for a win-win homeschool day (lessons reinforced for older children, little children are included, Mom gets a break).


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Four-Year Cycle Homeschooling

Four Year Cycle Utilizing Homeschool Connections



If you follow a four-year cycle, such as that used with TAN Books' Story of Civilization, you can use recorded, independent-learning courses with Homeschool Connections for your 3rd through 12th grade curriculum.

Here is a list of recorded courses through our Unlimited Access program that are available to you ...

GRADE SCHOOL
Ancient History Unit

  • Grade School Unit Study Program for 3rd through 6th grade students.

NOTE: The Medieval History unit for grade school is being taught live in 2020/2021. The recorded version will be available February 15, 2021. We will follow with Making of the Modern World in 2021/2022 and US History in 2022/2023.

MIDDLE SCHOOL
Ancient History Unit
  • Language: variety of Latin courses with Emily Henry (12 weeks each)
  • Language: Biblical Greek, Parts One and Two with Dan Egan (14 weeks each)
  • Literature: Greek Mythology with Emily Henry (10 weeks)
  • Literature/History: The Golden Goblet: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 1) with Jackie deLaveaga (6 weeks).
  • Literature/History: Black Ships Before Troy: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 2) with Jackie deLaveaga (6 weeks).
  • Literature/History: Victory on the Walls: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 3) with Jackie deLaveaga (6 weeks).
  • Literature/History: The Bronze Bow: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 4) with Jackie deLaveaga (6 weeks).
  • History: The Ancient World, Parts One and Two with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks each).
  • History: Dawn of History: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Persia with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Glory of Ancient Greece with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Res Publica Romana with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
MIDDLE SCHOOL
Medieval History Unit
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Medieval History 1: Big John’s Secret with Jackie de Laveaga (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Medieval History 2: The Door in the Wall with Jackie de Laveaga (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Medieval History 3 Saint Joan, The Girl Soldier with Jackie de Laveaga (6 weeks) (available 7/15/19)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Medieval History 4: Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal with Jackie de Laveaga (6 weeks) (available 7/15/19)
  • History: The Crusades: On A Quest for Christendom with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
MIDDLE SCHOOL
Making of the Modern World Unit
  • Literature: Anne of Green Gables, Part One with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Green Gables, Part Two with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Avonlea with Emily Henry (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anne of Windy Poplars with Emily Henry (10 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Father Damien and the Bells: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 1) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Padre Pro Mexican Hero: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 2) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Polly Kent Rides West: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 3) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Enemy Brothers: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 4) (6 weeks)
  • History: The French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death” with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
  • History: The Life and Legacy of St. John Paul II with Kevin O'Brien (6 weeks)
MIDDLE SCHOOL
U.S. History Unit
  • Science: To the Moon: Apollo Missions and the Future with MacBeth Derham (13 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Kat Finds a Friend with Jackie de Laveaga (American History 1) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Thomas Finds a Treasure, a Saint John Neumann Story with Jackie de Laveaga (American History 2) (6 weeks)
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: The Orphans Find a Home, A St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Story with Jackie de Laveaga (American History 3) (6 weeks) 
  • Literature/History: Living History Through Literature: Willy Finds Victory, A Blessed Francis Seelos Story with Jackie de Laveaga (American History 4) (6 weeks) 
  • Government: Middle School Civics, Parts One and Two with Alison Stanley (11 weeks each)
  • History: The American Revolution; Liberty! with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
  • History: History: The Civil War with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
  • History: World War I; What Price Glory with Alison Stanley (9 weeks)
  • History: World War II; Allies vs. Axis with Alison Stanley (10 weeks)
  • History: U.S. History: The Age of Exploration to Modernity, Parts One and Two with Christopher Martin (14 weeks each)
  • History: Middle School U.S. History: Part 1 (1492-1847) with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Middle School U.S. History Part 2 (1847-1990) with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Rise and Fall of the Missions of Alta California, Parts One and Two with Christopher Zehnder (12 weeks each)

HIGH SCHOOL
Ancient Unit
  • Philosophy: Early Greek Philosophy with Julian Ahlquist (15 weeks).
  • Philosophy: Virtue and Vice: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Catholics with Sam Nicholson (12 weeks).
  • Language: wide variety of Latin courses with Emily Henry (12 to 14 weeks each)
  • Language: Biblical Greek, Parts One and Two with Dan Egan (14 weeks each)
  • Literature: Iliad: The Glory and the Will of God with by Henry Russell (13 weeks)
  • Literature: Odyssey: The World Without Fathers with Henry Russell (12 weeks)
  • Literature: The Iliad by Homer with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Odyssey by Homer with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Theban Plays of Sophocles with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Sophocles and Tragedy with Henry Russell (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Virgil’s Aeneid; The Founding of Nations in the Will of God with Henry Russell (7 weeks)
  • Literature: Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra with by Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • History: Dawn of History: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Persia with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Glory of Ancient Greece with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Life and Times of the Ancient Romans with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Ancient Rome: Republic, Empire and Collapse with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History/Archaeology: Archaeology of the Ancient World with Phillip Campbell (13 weeks)
  • History/Archaeology: An Archaeological Survey of the Old and New Testaments with Phillip Campbell (10 weeks)
  • History: The Dawn of History: The Ancient World with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Christ and Caesar: The Ancient World and the Founding of Christendom with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • Drama: The Drama of Socrates with Kevin O'Brien (8 weeks)
HIGH SCHOOL
Medieval Unit
  • Philosophy: An Introduction to The Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, Parts One and Two with Dave Palmer (12 weeks each)
  • Philosophy: St. Thomas on the Human Person with Jean Rioux (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Anglo-Saxon England: Bede and Beowulf with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer; Trust God and Tradition with Henry Russell (4 weeks)
  • Literature: Medieval Literature for Modern Catholics with Henry Russell (12 weeks)
  • Literature: St. Francis, Asceticism and Mysticism with G.K. Chesterton with Dale Ahlquist (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Dante’s Inferno; Purgatorio; and Paradiso with Henry Russell (11-12 weeks each)
  • Literature: G. K. Chesterton's St. Thomas Aquinas with Dale Ahlquist (6 weeks)
  • Literature: G. K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse with Gregory Pyne (6 weeks)
  • History: The Crusades: Defending Christendom with Alison Stanley (12 weeks)
  • History: Catholic Middle Ages with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Rending of Christendom (1415-1648) with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • Music: Early Sacred Music with Carol Reynolds (12 weeks)
HIGH SCHOOL
Making of the Modern World Unit
  • Philosophy: Introduction to Early Modern Philosophy with Jean Rioux (12 weeks)
  • Philosophy: Revolution: The Progress of Liberalism with Phillip Campbell (14 weeks)
  • Psychology: Modern Psychology with Julian Ahlquist (12 weeks)
  • Literature: A wide variety of Shakespeare courses
  • Literature: Dracula by Bram Stoker with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Victorian Detective with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Frankenstein: Misunderstood Monster with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Nineteenth-Century Novel with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: The Picture of Dorian Gray with Joseph Pearce (6 weeks)
  • Literature: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations with Anthony Esolen (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Golden Age of Mystery Fiction with Eleanor Nicholson (12 weeks)
  • Literature: Middlemarch with Eleanor Nicholson (6 weeks)
  • History/Government: A History of Government in Europe and America, Parts One and Two with Christopher Zehnder (11 and 12 weeks)
  • History: Early Modern Europe: 1648-1789 with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Modern European History; 1789-1991 with Phillip Campbell (14 weeks)
  • History: Imperial Russia with Carol Reynolds (12 weeks)
  • History: Understanding the Second Vatican Council with Phillip Campbell (4 weeks)
  • History: The History of Latin America with Phillip Campbell (13 weeks)
  • History: Totalitarianism in the 20th Century: Nazis and Soviets with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
HIGH SCHOOL
U.S. History Unit
  • Literature: Scarlet Letter with Henry Russell (7 weeks)
  • Literature: Death Comes for the Archbishop with Henry Russell (6 weeks)
  • Literature: The Stories and Letters of Flannery O’Connor with Kevin O'Brien (8 weeks)
  • Literature: American Literature, Part One: Age of Exploration through Reconstruction with Jackie de Laveaga (12 weeks)
  • Literature: American Literature, Part Two: Reconstruction through Present Day with Jackie de Laveaga (12 weeks)
  • Government: American Elections: Democracy in Action with Ed Rivet (6 weeks)
  • Government: Government, Democracy, and Citizenship with Ed Rivet (9 weeks)
  • Government: American Democracy and Government with Ed Rivet (12 weeks)
  • Government: The Federalist Papers with Alison Stanley (12 weeks)
  • Government: Advanced American Government with Ed Rivet (9 weeks)
  • Government: U.S. Citizenship and Civics with Jason Negri (12 weeks)
  • Government: U.S. Government and Politics, Parts One and Two with Alison Stanley (12 weeks each)
  • History: Early American History (1492 to 1763); Discovery to the Dawn of Revolution with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: US History: Revolution, Republic, and Union (1763-1865) with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: Modern U.S. History; 1865 - 2000 with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks) (with optional Honors)
  • History: Contemporary U.S. History (1988-2016) with Phillip Campbell (12 weeks)
  • History: The Great Depression with Phillip Campbell (4 weeks)
  • History: U.S. History: The Age of Exploration to Modernity, Part One with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: U.S. History: The Age of Exploration to Modernity, Part Two with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: The American South: "To Live and Die in Dixie" with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: A Nation Made by Conflict: America's Wars with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: Civil Rights in America, 1863-1968: Setbacks, Struggles, and Shockwaves with Christopher Martin (14 weeks)
  • History: American History and the Hit Musical Hamilton with Kevin O'Brien (12 weeks)
  • History: American History: Lands of Hope and Promise, Part One with Christopher Zehnder (12 weeks)
  • History: American History: Lands of Hope and Promise, Part Two with Christopher Zehnder (12 weeks)
  • History: American History, Part One: Age of Exploration through the Civil War and Reconstruction with John C. "Chuck" Chalberg (12 weeks)
  • History: American History, Part Two: Reconstruction through Present Day with John C. "Chuck" Chalberg. (12 weeks)
NOTE: For preschool to 2nd grade, we recommend For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects through Living Literature by Maureen Wittmann. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. You can call or email us by clicking here: CONTACT.




Thursday, March 12, 2020

Online Resource for Families Affected by School Closings Due to Coronavirus

                                                                                                                         
COVID-19:
AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL PARENTS

Dear Families,

We are all acutely aware that, due to COVID-19, many schools are closing their doors temporarily. The virus is affecting our families and communities, and we’re all concerned.

This simple message is an offer to help.

You’re probably aware that online courses are available all across the Internet. We want to help you increase your options for learning by letting you know about Unlimited Access—a collection of 425+ online courses taught by college professors and experts in their fields, for middle and high school students in every subject area—including theology, math, science, history, English, computer programming, languages, philosophy and more. Unit study courses are available for your 3rd through 6th graders, too.

It’s another option, to help your student in this time. Its cost: $34.97 a month, for all students, all classes, and all access.

If you’re interested in how it works…
You can take one course or ten (or more), and the price is the same. The recorded courses are set out in weekly blocks, so your student can follow the course exactly—or your student can complete the work at his or her own pace. Either works (it’s truly whatever’s best for your student). Your student can start at the beginning of a class—or skip to the exact lessons needed. And if you want your student to work with a teacher who gives feedback and grades the student’s work, one-on-one Instructor Access is available, too (this mentoring-tutoring service is offered for most courses).

If this sounds like something that would help your family right now, please go here to find out more. And if you have questions or would like to talk with someone to get more information, feel free to call our toll free number at 1-888-372-4757, or email homeschoolconnections@gmail.com at any time.

If this is something that will help your family, please reach out. We’re here for you and want to help in any way that we can.

God bless,

Walter Crawford and Maureen Wittmann
Co-Founders and Co-Directors
HomeschoolConnections.com
                                                                                                                         

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

How to Homeschool in the Hard Times: 7 Top Tips

In the Worst of Times 

Jenny Bales 
(click to see all of Jenny's articles)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”1
And through it all, we still homeschooled…
Even in the best of times, homeschooling is hard work. What happens when we face a particularly tough time? Should we still homeschool?

Maybe you’re dealing with a chronic illness or an unexpected surgery. Maybe it’s a difficult pregnancy or medically fragile newborn. Maybe your husband works nights or is traveling a lot. Maybe an elderly relative needs extra care. I have personally known families who have not only survived homeschooling in these situations … but thrived. 

It’s difficult… but possible.

In our 13 years of homeschooling, my family has faced two particularly challenging pregnancies and one difficult postpartum recovery, three years of my husband attending law school (where we barely saw Dad), moving across the country three times, and a year-long overseas deployment, complete with selling a house, moving twice, and buying a house—all while my husband was overseas (plus the challenges of several years of the rocky reintegration, once he arrived home).

Needless to say, homeschooling during these sometimes-tough times has been hard. 

Here are some keys to survival I’ve learned through my own experiences—and by watching the courageous families around me.


Thrive Tip 1: Simplify Schooling!

The key to thriving in times of stress is to survive! And the way to survive is to simplify.

For any student in the grades prior to high school, homeschooling can be reduced to reading, writing, math, and religion. Tweaking the curriculum to add more workbooks can make schoolwork much easier on Mom. You can also use audio books—or it might be a season for outsourcing to online classes or local classes’ co-ops.

Changing up the methods and modes of learning can lighten the load.

And if your state laws allow it, please don’t be afraid to stop formal schooling. I’ve watched families complete little to no book or “formal” schooling for huge lengths of time, and their children caught up surprisingly quickly. If putting aside formality for a time, provide books to explore and educational shows, both through video and “live” presentations. Encourage playtime and natural curiosity. A relaxed schooling experience gives our students unique opportunities to think, explore, and learn.


Thrive Tip 2: Simplify Home Life, Too!

Everyday activities and living can be simplified, too.

Use paper plates for meals. Eat snacks for dinner at least once a week. Teach children to make very simple meals and to serve each other. Take advantage of a grocery delivery service, and put into place a limited rotation of meals and snacks. Accept help with meals, and ask friends to set up a meal calendar for your family. Getting help with even one meal a week can be a huge relief.

And definitely say no to as much outside of the home as you can. This is the time to take a break from volunteering at church, skip a soccer season, and miss the field trips. The children will be fine. They will become closer to one another and probably more creative in how to occupy themselves. Pick up those activities again when the storm has passed, even if that takes a long time.


Thrive Tip 3: Embrace Life Lessons!

A life without difficulties generally gives us fewer opportunities to practice virtue. The good news is this: We can embrace challenging seasons because they’re full of the lessons most difficult to teach with a book or curriculum.

When a new baby arrives or an elderly family member needs extra care, consider it an opportunity for pro-life lessons! We all know that the way we spend our time teaches our children priorities. When our children are blessed by spending time with people in need, they often become less selfish, become more compassionate, and realize the truth that people are the priority. 

If you have to move from your home to a new one, focus on your child’s resilience. Teach your child how to make new friends. When your husband works long hours or travels, demonstrate gratitude. Encourage your children’s understanding of his heroic sacrifices to provide for his family.


Thrive Tip 4: Go to the Scriptures!

As Philippians 4 verse 8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” 

The Bible is full of wisdom to guide us through life. Meditating on Scripture and clinging to God’s Word when the going gets tough is the lifeline God provides for us. Spend time in the Word every day, whether that means listening to the daily Mass readings, using a Bible study, or simply searching for verses that speak of perseverance, hope, and faith (which is easily accomplished with a Bible app or online)!

With Scripture as our guide, we can find truths to apply to our struggles. We can learn how to grow through life’s challenges by discussing and sharing Biblical virtues with our families.


Thrive Tip 5: Focus on Character Building!

Coping with stress and suffering are key life skills that God builds into our lives through each and every challenge. The difficult days are opportunities to share our faith, including the struggles, with our children. Tough times are the moments for consistent (not necessarily extra) prayers as a family. 

Verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “count it all joy” (James 1) can become the solid rock our families cling to when the storms of life come crashing in around us. Virtues like fortitude, faith, and hope can develop, as we turn to God in tough times. Finding the fruits of joy and patience are lessons for our children more valuable than math and phonics.

I firmly believe that if my children watch me walk my faith journey with all of its ups and downs, then as adults, my children will be better prepared for their own Christian walks.


Thrive Tip 6: Rest!

These days, most of us run the hamster wheel of life at top speed! But when life gets tricky, rest is essential. We all need time to breathe and lower our blood pressure. And, perhaps most importantly, we need time to connect with the Lord.

We can teach our kids the importance of rest during stressful times by scheduling down time. Plan extra snuggles and stories, preserve naps and quiet times, and take time off from schooling. Even a slow stroll around the neighborhood can be a refreshing way to rest while respecting that little bodies need to move! Or make your one goal for the day to spend a couple of minutes in front of the tabernacle on your way to or from somewhere.

Planning specific down time might mean asking for help from family and friends. Find a mother’s helper to play with your children while you nap with the baby. Ask a friend to do a kid swap—where you each take the other’s kids for a few hours. Or if your kids are old enough to occupy themselves safely and watch each other, tell them that everyone will clean the house when you wake up, so they let you sleep as long as possible!

Taking the time to physically rest isn’t a luxury. It’s essential for your health and your family’s health.


Thrive Tip 7: Trust Yourself!

In your own life, deep down, you know what you need. Sometimes we simply need to give ourselves permission to do what we know is best.

Consider what’s going on with wisdom and intentionality. Listen to the Lord. And make decisions for yourself and your family that you know are best for the long haul. Trust your God-given mother’s instincts and act on them.

Are there situations that warrant stopping homeschooling? Absolutely! Are there are times that, with a few purposeful adjustments, we can still homeschool during tough times? Absolutely!

And our kids will be just fine!



Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at www.heartofamother.net.



  Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, (New York, Signet, 1960), 7.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Homeschool Burnout and How to Overcome It - A Top 10

Quick Tips for Beating Back Homeschool Burnout 

Jenny Bales 



February is known as homeschool burnout month. It’s when the days can seem long due to dreary weather, rampant illness, and the resulting loneliness. Some moms just feel weary.

Some moms are calling the school down the street to ask about immediate enrollment.

If you’re finding yourself dragging and lacking the motivation to keep up with the repetitive, daily tasks of homeschooling, you are not alone! Many moms feel this way this time of year. Burnout is when homeschooling is no longer a joy or you regularly feel exhausted and exasperated.

[But if you’re completely physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and can barely get out of bed, and it’s not just temporary, please seek professional care. That’s not burnout. That’s probably something else that will take more healing than these quick tips.]

For me, burnout creeps in regularly, sometimes in February, sometimes in other months, and I have found that a little effort to boost my attitude can go a long way. A few small changes can prevent serious, life-altering burnout.

Here are ten tips that I have personally and successfully used to help me beat back that sneaking feeling of burnout:

  1. Make a JOY list! Write down in your planner or on your phone a list of things that bring you joy. Be sure to put things on the list that vary in time, cost, and location. What would you put on your list that you can do at home and takes less than 5 minutes?
  2. Take a Just Because We Can Day! These are most fun when it’s a surprise for your kids. Take the day off from your usual schooling and go somewhere fun like a movie or museum (or a park if you’re in Texas, like me)! Or bring something fun into your home by popping popcorn and binge-watching educational shows or playing board games all morning!
  3. Phone a friend! Or text or email or Vox or Marco Polo or *gasp* get together in person! Mamas, we need each other. There is a huge benefit to having colleagues who understand you and can share in the joys and struggles of this unique journey. My spirit is lifted when a friend sends a quick message to ask how I’m doing, and I even inspire myself when encouraging others. Reach out to someone and check in to encourage and pray for them!
  4. Find inspiration! Read a blog post. Listen to a podcast. Participate in a webinar. Technology is our friend when used to educate and inspire! There are plenty of homeschooling gurus who share fabulous resources online for avoiding and overcoming burnout. Focus your time on the writers and speakers that leave you feeling positive and motivated.
  5. Remember Your Why! Have you ever written down WHY you homeschool? This is the time to review it or document it. You can write down your why or create a vision board and put it somewhere you will see it regularly. When we remember WHY we are going to all the trouble to homeschool, it can strengthen our resolve to persevere. If you don’t have a written or visual explanation of why you homeschool, set a timer for 2 minutes and brainstorm!
  6. Acknowledge the Challenges! Homeschooling is tough, and we all face different struggles in this journey. Maybe you have a child with special needs or a husband who works irregular hours. Perhaps you have health issues or extended family complications. Or maybe it's challenging a gifted child or running your own business. Putting a name to the unique challenges in my family has helped me gain both confidence to face them and courage to seek solutions that work for us.
  7. Change the Scenery! Sometimes all it takes is a change to where you homeschool to lift your spirits. Can you put new posters on the walls? Can you do school at the couch instead of the table? Can you go outside or to the library? Think about how you can change your scenery to improve your mood.
  8. Be creative! There is real value to participating in creative pursuits. It allows us a connection to the creativity of Our Creator. Whether we sew or paint or write or craft, making something with our own hands and effort for our own enjoyment can give our souls a unique peace and joy. Are there such hobbies you used to enjoy but currently do not? How can you work creativity into your life?
  9. Do NOT make big changes or big decisions this month! Most likely, this is not the time to throw out the math book, spend hundreds on a whole new curriculum, or enroll your kids in public school. Wait a little while longer until the sun is shining more to properly discern those big changes! Stay the course and work on small tweaks that will help you find more peace, and then weigh the pros and cons of any significant changes to your homeschooling.
  10. Pray! Pray! Pray! Maybe I should have put this one first, but here at the end I can say this: First, if you can't do any of the other nine things I've mentioned, then pray. Second, if you do some or all of the other tips, and you're still feeling the frustration of burnout, then pray. And finally, pray. While prayer can solve many issues, the biggest gift of prayer is grace. We all need grace, and we need as much as we can get!

I challenge you to choose one of the above and see how it impacts your mood this week! These quick tips might help you climb out of the beginning stages of burnout or maybe keep it from creeping up on you in the coming weeks.

Because let’s face it. While homeschooling, most of the day to day decisions about the academic, disciplinary, emotional, nutritional, physical, social, and spiritual needs of our children are mom’s responsibility. And that’s a lot.

When burnout is lurking, it’s also our responsibility to send it packing!


Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at www.heartofamother.net.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

New Spring 2020 Online Courses



As Homeschool Connections' live, interactive courses are completed we convert them to recorded, independent-learning courses available through our Unlimited Access program. The following courses will be added to our current catalog of 400 courses on February 15, 2020.

Grade School
  • Project-Based Ancient History Unit Study, Part 1 with Jackie de Laveaga, grades 3-6
Computer Science
  • Document and Photo Editing with Dr. Peggy Morrow, grades 7-12
  • Programming Catholic Games with Python (2-D) with Domenico Ruggiero, grades 8-12
Drama
  • Acting Monologues with Kevin O'Brien, grades 7-9
Geography
  • Middle School Geography with Dan Egan, grades 6-8
Government
  • Middle School Civics, Part One with Alison Stanley, grades 6-8
History
  • The Ancient World, Part One with Phillip Campbell, grades 7-8
  • The Old World and America with Dr. Christopher Martin, grades 6-8
  • Christ the King, Lord of History, Part One with Dr. Christopher Martin, grades 9-12
Language
  • Henle Latin First Year, Part One with Emily Henry, grades 9-12
  • French II, Part One with Dr. Nancy Lapierre, grades 9-12
  • Advanced Conversational Spanish, Part One with Nanci Lopez, grades 10-12
Literature
  • Father Damien and the Bells: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 1) with Jackie deLaveaga, grades 5-8
  • Black Ships Before Troy: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 2) with Jackie deLaveaga, grades 5-8
  • The Golden Goblet: Living History Through Literature (Ancient Era 1) with Jackie deLaveaga, grades 5-8
  • Padre Pro Mexican Hero: Living History Through Literature (Modern Era 2) with Jackie deLaveaga, grades 5-8
  • Anne of Windy Poplars with Emily Henry, grades 7-10
  • The Chronicles of Narnia for Middle School, Part One with Kevin O'Brien, grades 6-8
  • The Chronicles of Narnia for High School, Part One with Kevin O'Brien, grades 9-12
  • A Mastery of Mysteries for High School with Kevin O'Brien, grades 9-12
  • The Comedies of Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing with Kevin O'Brien, grades 9-12
  • The Comedies of Shakespeare: As You Like It with Kevin O'Brien, grades 9-12
  • The Nineteenth-Century Novel (Austen, Dickens, Trollope): Emma, David Copperfield, The Warden & Barchester Towers with Eleanor Nicholson, grades 9-12
  • The Theban Plays of Sophocles with Joseph Pearce, grades 9-12
  • Almost Home: CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce with Gregor Pyne, grades 10-12
  • G. K. Chesterton's St. Thomas Aquinas with Dale Ahlquist, grades 11-12
Math
  • Glencoe Algebra 2, Part One with Monica Breier, grades 10-12
Music
  • The Sound of Beauty: Music Appreciation for Catholics with Dr. Michael Kurek, grades 9-12
Philosophy / Logic
  • Early Greek Philosophy with Julian Ahlquist, grades 9-12
  • Theories of Knowledge with Dr. Sam Nicholson, grades 9-12
Science
  • The Dog: Natural History, Artificial Selection, and Anatomy with MacBeth Derham, grades 6-8
  • To the Moon: Apollo Missions and the Future with MacBeth Derham, grades 6-8
  • Basic Chemistry (Apologia), Part One with Inshal Chenet, grades 9-12
  • Honors Biology with Optional Lab, Part One with MacBeth Derham, grades 10-12
Theology
  • Eschatology: The Theology of the End Times with Mike Creavey, MA

Never hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for us. You can email us at homeschoolconnections@gmail.com or call our toll-free number at 1-888-372-4757.

Learn more about our recorded course program Unlimited Access at https://learn.homeschoolconnections.com/unlimited-access/.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

3 Tips for Earning College Scholarships



Are you planning on college and need scholarships to make that happen? We have some good news for you! There are thousands of great scholarships out there, and all you need to do is apply.

Here are three simple tips to get you started in your scholarship search to help you lower your college costs...

1. Apply for local scholarships: diocesan or parish scholarships such as Council of Catholic Women and Knights of Columbus, parent’s place of employment, Lions Club, Rotary Club, local credit unions, etc.

Here are just a few to start with:
https://www.kofc.org/en/what-we-do/scholarships/index.html 
http://www.clubscholarships.us/lions-club-scholarships/
https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/scholarships

2. Treat applying for scholarships like a part-time job: allocate a certain amount of time each week to research scholarship opportunities and apply for as many as you can. The earlier you start this process the better!

3. Inquire with the colleges regarding their financial aid options often and up until it is time for your first semester to begin: many colleges will offer institutional aid or scholarships. So, keep inquiring about any additional financial aid you may receive up until it is time for the semester to begin.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Homeschooling, Holidays, and Finding Peace

Heading into the Holidays with a Plan for Peace

Jenny Bales

You know the song, “Here Comes Santa Clause?” Well, I have a new version ...

Here comes overwhelm,
Here comes overwhelm,
Right down overwhelm lane!
Presents and travel and all the parties, pullin’ on our brain!
Friends are callin’, children bawlin’, all is busy and bright…
Take a deep breath and say your prayers, cause a plan can make it right!

Smiles and laughter aside, we all know that Thanksgiving leads to Advent leads to Christmas leads to New Year leads to Epiphany…and it all runs together, making us dizzy, tired, and overwhelmed!

How do we avoid feeling overwhelmed by the holiday extra—and find the joy in the season?

There’s a way! We plan for it. Right now!


Balance the Equation: Some Easy Ideas…

The holidays are mostly a lot of fun, but they’re notorious for adding to our schedules and to-do lists.

What can be done?

One way to keep our families balanced is this: whenever we add something for the holidays, make sure we subtract something that we usually do. Keep the equation balanced.

What We Did in October (Our Whole Schedule)
MINUS
One of Those Things
PLUS
One Holiday Thing
  EQUALS
Peace

Or…

(3 Events) – (1 Event) + 1 New Event = Peace (Balance)

For example, during Advent, we can choose to add a daily Jesse Tree devotion but put away the catechism program—letting the Jesse Tree devotion be our religion lesson for the day. We usually need to add Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so we should probably say no to a play date that week.

It’s simple math. Don’t you love it?!

(Often simple is the best.)

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Saying “No”…

Saying no can be difficult. But deep down, we all know that to avoid tipping the scale too far, we need to use that little word!

Fortunately, between Christmas and New Year’s, many outside-of-the-home activities take a break. But if we decide to add an Advent Penance Service and a co-op party before Christmas, you and I can bet that (to keep our lives peaceful and enjoyable) we’ll need to cross a few more things off of our calendar.

Again, skipping park day or missing a dance class isn’t going to hurt—and it’s surely going to help.


Give Yourself a “Peace Day”

One thing that works for me to keep life balanced and not overwhelmed is to have a Weekly Peace Day. Each week, I intentionally plan for a full day of peace—choosing one day each week to stay home the entire day.

Just one day at home can preserve the balance.


Modify Schoolwork

As homeschoolers, modifying our students’ schoolwork during the holiday season is normal and expected.

Simplifying our schoolwork allows room for holiday baking, field trips to the Nutcracker, and special celebratory times with friends and family. Yes—it’s totally okay to work on only “the 3 R’s” during December—reading, writing, and arithmetic. Simplifying the school schedule gives us the opportunity to learn from the fun holiday activities.

Put away the history timeline and pull out those cookie recipes! It’s okay!


Do Advent Well!

Above all, it’s essential for us to keep in mind that Advent is a time of preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. Planning ahead, placing the religious aspect of the season in the forefront, and focusing on Jesus’ birthday helps our faith-filled time of Advent to not get obliterated by shopping and eating!

Plan for—and focus on—one meaningful daily family activity during the Advent season. When we choose an Advent activity, we bring focus to our entire family.

In my family, some years we read aloud from a book like The Christmas Mystery by Jocelyn Gaardner. Some years, we do a Jesse Tree. Some years, we plan an Advent calendar of seasonal activities.

Whatever you and I choose, a singular, focused, and intentional activity can bring our family together—so we’re not “all over the place.” It’s easily accomplished, and it’s reasonable for our limited time.

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Mom’s Spiritual Health

And don’t forget yourself! Choose one thing for you, Mom, to nourish your soul. Be intentional!

Since we can’t give others what we ourselves don’t already possess, it’s good and healthy to plan for something in our lives that’s special and spiritual during this season, too.

While getting dressed, listen to the readings of the day. Wake up a few minutes before the kids and spend some time with an Advent book of reflections. Splurge on a special Bible study book that you can read while sipping coffee or tea… or slip your Rosary into your pocket, and during nap or reading time, sit in your comfy chair and pray the Rosary.

One of my favorite things is to pray the Christmas Anticipation Prayer. It’s said 15 times a day from St. Andrew’s Feast Day, November 30, to Christmas Day. During this time, I have the prayer on the lock screen of my phone, as well as posted in front of my kitchen sink. With the pre-planned, intentional setup taken care of, I usually get to pray it 3-5 times in a row, at various times throughout my day…

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight,
In Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, 
[here mention your request]
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Whatever we choose, keep it simple and focused on Christ.


But Wait! I Can’t! This is too much!

Sometimes you and I are in a season of life where we simply cannot cross things off or add things.

Perhaps we feel like we barely survived October (with what already felt like the bare minimum, to keep our families going). Particularly during the holidays, when overwhelm and survival mode kicks in, it can help to find tips from others in order to simplify and keep ourselves balanced.

Here are a few practical ways I’ve been able to simplify in times of stress, especially during the holidays:

  • Don’t make your bed (and don’t make the kids make their beds).
  • Put on educational shows and cross off a school subject.
  • Don’t fold the laundry; a mountain of clean clothes is functional, as long as it has a place to live.
  • Use paper plates at some or all meals.
  • At parties, don’t stay the whole time; stay an hour, then go home! Everyone’s happy!
  • Once a week, simplify meals by eating snacks for dinner (at my home, we call it “sninner”!).
  • Avoid neglecting personal connections; one phone or video call is more valuable than a stack of Christmas cards.
  • Rely on grocery pick up and order gifts online; for reduced stress, stay out of the stores!

And there are many more helpful ideas “out there.” Be intentional, and find ways to simplify!


Thanksgiving—Advent—Christmas—New Year’s—Epiphany

The coming season is one of opportunity. As moms, because of the potential for overwhelm, we can view the months of November and December negatively. But the truth is—in this season, there is joy and beauty to be found!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, is God made man.

He is the reason for all the hustle and bustle!

And He wants us to find the joy and beauty in every moment.

When we keep the balance and do Advent well, we will find peace in our homes and peace in our hearts.




Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at www.heartofamother.net.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

FAQ: College Bound Students

FAQs for HS Juniors and Seniors Who are Planning to Go to College



When should I start visiting colleges to see which one is the right fit for me?
It is recommended to start college visits in the fall or spring of your junior year.

When do I apply for college?
You will want to check with each college, but typically, you can submit your application during
the summer before your senior year of HS.

Do I have to take the ACT or SAT?
For admission, most colleges require your official GPA and your ACT or SAT score. However, many
schools offer alternative admission options to the ACT or SAT. Many schools also accept the CLT
(Classical Learning Test).

What is the difference between a college and a university?
A college is typically a smaller institution that only offers undergraduate degrees, while a
university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many universities also offer PhD
programs. Some institutions prefer to maintain their title as “college” due to tradition, so there
are some colleges that offer graduate programs.

What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form completed to determine eligibility for
student financial aid. If a student chooses to submit the FAFSA, it is recommended to submit it
before confirming a college choice, as this will help colleges determine their financial aid
packages.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Vicky Tomaszycki at vtomaszycki@franciscan.edu

Monday, November 4, 2019

Lonely? Five Simple Tips for Making New Friends as a Homeschooling Mom



Lonely?  Five Simple Tips for Making New Friends as a Homeschooling Mom


 Jenny Bales

Mamas, we need each other. We need other Catholic homeschooling mamas…because there is no one who understands the day-to-day reality of being a homeschooling mom than another homeschooling mom!



Women of Faith

When we find other Catholic women who are striving for holiness, too, we can enjoy a unique connection that strengthens us both. We can share the sacraments, the saints, the liturgical year, works of mercy—all the things that provide us with practical ways to follow the Gospel.

Other homeschooling moms best understand the opportunities and limitations of our days: the specific challenges of educating a child at home; having our children home all day, every day; and running the household on top of the homeschooling.

And let’s be honest.

Our husband may be our best friend—but he isn’t made to act as a girlfriend. As women, God created us with unique characteristics for woman-to-woman relationships. Expecting our husbands to fulfill all of our emotional needs is unrealistic and quite stressful for the husband-wife relationship.

We need other women.



Woman-to-Woman Care

Woman-to-woman friendships can refresh and restore us—helping us to carry on throughout our daily joys and struggles!

Regardless of whether we meet with kids for a playdate and simply spend time chatting together, or we arrange to get away for an evening at a coffee shop, or we take a girls’ weekend trip—the time we spend connecting with other women can bless us with laughter and love. The time leads us to a greater understanding of ourselves, our vocation, and our path to holiness.

How?
When we hear about our friends’ unique journeys and how God works in their lives, our faith can grow.
When friends are in need, we can practice mercy and compassion.
When we need advice, friends bless us with reality checks and fresh perspectives.
And for those of us surrounded by children 24/7, adult conversation can save our sanity!


How do we find potential friends?

1. Go to where there are people.
We can’t make friends if we don’t know people!

To build new friendships, we have to intentionally seek out ways to be around other women, such as at homeschooling groups or a Bible study.

I know. You and I don’t have the time.

That’s why we purposefully strive to make the time.

Meeting others is often not as hard as we initially make it out to be. If we simply cross something off the to-do list and move the activity into the next week, we can make time to attend a gathering at our home church, or even drive to an event in the next town.

The goal is to find out where there will be other Catholic homeschooling women, put an event on the calendar, and go!

2. Reach out.
When arriving at an event, find at least one woman who looks like she might be a kindred spirit. Strike up a conversation. Ask questions.

Do they have kids with similar ages? Have they been homeschooling about as long as your family? What sports, activities, or favorite excursions do you have in common?

Try not to go home without connecting one-on-one with at least one person!

We all know that going to new events and meeting new people can be awkward. But we can be happier—and our families can be happier—when you and I make the effort to build community.

3. Follow up individually with the women you met.
Now’s the time: Get to know each other!

Send an email to your potential friend. Ask a question about something you discussed. Text and invite the new friend and her kids to a play date at a park. And if you’re really feeling brave, call to ask if the new friend would like to go for coffee sometime—gasp!—without kids.

If all of this sounds a bit like dating, well, it kind of is. Our society has moved away from living in community with those next door, and our extended families are more spread out than ever before. So you and I have to put in the work, to build relationships.

And that’s okay.

Making new friends might take a while. Relationships are not efficient. They take time and energy. Be patient. Keep reaching out.

(It’s really worth it.)

4. The next steps.
If the friendship seems to be “clicking,” then touch base once a week by text or in person. Ask about your new friend’s daily life.

How is your week going? 
How can I pray for you today? 
How do you handle [such-and-such]?

You can get together and ask more questions—questions that help you both to get to know each other better.

How did you meet your husband?
What do you love to teach your child/children?
Who has influenced your faith life?


Conversation is key to growing in intimacy with others.

If after chatting, you know that the new acquaintance isn’t a good fit—or if she simply doesn’t respond to your reaching out—then don’t worry. Simply and graciously try again with someone else.

It’s all good.

5. Pray for new friends.
Most importantly ask and trust the Lord to send friends—because He will answer those prayers.
It might take months. It might take years. But we can have faith that God will bless us with friends in His perfect timing.

In 20 years of marriage, I’ve lived in eight different cities. Finding new friends in those cities was a challenge. (If you’ve moved before, you know how stressful it can be to plug into a new community, right?)

Making the effort to make friends is tough. Setting aside time in our packed schedules is tough. When someone your reached out to chooses not to invest in a new relationship, accepting the feelings of rejection is tough.

Eventually, we can find the women to call true friends.

True friends are the ones with whom we can spend a week carrying on a conversation by text, because we can’t make a phone call work without kids screaming in the background.

True friends are the ones we can text at any hour, to pray with us when facing trials.

True friends are the ones who, even if we don’t talk for years, send messages that light up our worlds as we reconnect.

True friends are out there. You and I can go, reach out, follow up, and take the next steps.



We Are Made for Community

We were created to live in community, not isolation.

Jesus Christ didn’t send his followers back to their families to be alone. Some went out in pairs to evangelize. Others continued to meet together regularly in homes and, eventually, in churches.

Living our vocation in community with women in similar circumstances is life-giving and inspiring. We share our struggles. Our faith. Our laughter. Our tears.

We share our sometimes crazy, enormously busy, highly memorable lives together.


It’s truly worth it, right now, to reach out and find a new friend.

The blessings of friendship are abundant.



Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at www.heartofamother.net.