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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Can I Be a WAHM and Homeschool?



How to Homeschool While Earning an Outside Income

20 Tips for the Working Homeschool Mom: How to Keep a Job and Your Sanity at the Same Time. 

By Maureen Wittmann


WAHM is an acronym for "work-at-home mom". Combine that with homeschooling and life gets a little complicated. It's not something I recommend, but there are times when it is necessary and even unavoidable. In fact, if a mom needs to help bring income into the home, working at home is one way that can make it possible to keep homeschooling. (If you work outside the home, it is still possible to homeschool. These tips should be helpful to you as well. More than likely, you will need to rely more on outside help.)

As a homeschooler and full-time WAHM, I hope I can share my own experience to help other moms in the same boat. I help run Homeschool Connections and I'm still homeschooling my two youngest children. I've been balancing work at home, first as an author/speaker (in addition to volunteer work) and later managing Homeschool Connections, for seventeen years. I've graduated five children so far and the last two are rising tenth- and twelfth-grade students.

There are a number of challenges when a family decides to homeschool. Many families experience obstacles along the way - obstacles that range from learning disabilities to disapproval from family members to serious illness and so on. These obstacles are usually surmountable with determination, outside help, and prayer. When the primary educator in a homeschool is thrown into the workplace, the question has to be asked, "Is this a barrier to homeschooling or an obstacle that I can climb? Can I keep up with my homeschool while taking on outside work?"

There have been times when I seriously struggled to balance the two. When I got to that crossroad, I had two choices: quit my job or reevaluate the situation and find a solution so I could keep working. For me, the choice of giving up homeschooling was never on the table. My family comes first. My job and my community work comes second.

To be honest, there are still days when I become discouraged and need to recommit myself to this endeavor but for the most part it's working. The children are thriving and I'm able to also help other homeschooling parents through my job.

Following are my tips for balancing work-at-home and homeschooling.

1. Learn to manage your time and have set routines. Evaluate the tasks you must complete each day and the time necessary for each task. Keep a planner, writing out each task that must be completed. Don't slack in your time management.

Just like you plan and keep a schedule to serve your clients, you need to plan and keep a schedule to serve your children - don't let your homeschool slide even when you're working on a big project. But if it does slide, use your planner to get it back on track.

If needed, make weekly or daily checklists and be diligent in working them.

2. Give chores to the children. Working at home, homeschooling, AND managing your home is not unlike having three full-time jobs. Teach your children home management as part of your homeschool. This will train them to be responsible and prepare for their adult life, as well as help you in present. Get your husband on board too - his example to the children of tackling housework is invaluable.

3. Get creative with meal planning. How many times have you started meal planning at 4:00 or 5:00 PM? When that happens too often, the temptation is to call Dominos for pizza delivery. Falling back on carryout or frozen convenience foods is not good for your health nor your budget.

Set aside an hour each week to plan your meals and create your grocery list (minimizing outside trips to buy last-minute items). Focus on slow-cooker and pressure-cooker meals. Mark your planner so you don't forget to turn on your Crock Pot in the morning. Your days will run more smoothly, you'll have less stress, and you'll save money.

4. Employ your children.  My husband has employed most of our children in his accounting business at some point. By sixteen, all of our girls know how to file and how to work Excel Spreadsheets. They know the difference between FIFO and LIFO. The boys have worked as IT specialists. They know how to problem solve in addition to knowing the inner workings of computer systems. These are all great life-skills that can be taken into the workplace.

I've also employed our children. It's a little easier for me since my work is homeschool-related. For Homeschool Connections, I've had children create memes and infographics for me, render class recordings, review course materials, and more. When I was writing, they were my subjects. When I wrote For the Love of Literature I spent a three to four days a week in the library doing research. My children practically lived in the library in those days. And, they learned a great deal. When I wrote curriculum reviews for Cathy Duffy, the children got to try out all kinds of great new books. When I wrote literature unit studies for Homeschooling Today, they were first used with my children.

I have friends who run Etsy shops, sell homemade soaps at farmers' markets, run farms, own small shops or restaurants. These are all businesses that can involve children. Of course, I'm not talking about child labor. I'm talking about children having a part-time hand in things, earning a little money, and learning a lot of skills. They can learn to keep books (math); help with advertising (marketing); handle customer emails (writing); help with problem-solving (research), and more. Depending on the type of business you run, they may also learn science, art, music, culinary arts, agriculture, and so on.

5. Have older children tutor younger children. This is a win-win for everyone. Studies show that we retain information better when we teach. Enlisting an older child to tutor younger children, helps the older child relearn and retain the subject matter, helps the younger child learn, and helps free up some of your time.

As an example, one of my older daughters tutored her younger siblings in math. She earned a little extra cash and she went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

6. Encourage your children to be self-directed learners. I believe that children are born with an innate sense of curiosity and a natural love of learning. As homeschoolers, we can nurture that love and encourage children to continue to learn on their own. One way to do this is to simply model it for your children. Let them see your love of exploring. Let them see your curiosity. Let them see your joy of discovery.

One way I encourage my children is to let them take ownership of their education. I include them in the discussion when I am planning our school year. While I have veto power, and make the final decisions, the children do have a say in the direction of our homeschool.

As they get older, help your children organize their time and resources so that when they are ready to learn a new subject on their own, they can do so. Teach them how to plan their school week and stick to that plan. Show them how to take notes. Homeschool Connections offers a FREE study skills course called How to Be an Excellent Student that will help you teach your (7th to 10th grade) children to be self-directed learners.

7. Teach your children how to research and find answers on their own. Organize your home library so that desired books are easily found (your older children or your husband can do this for you). Teach them the Dewey Decimal System and how to find reference materials at the library. Show them how to use the Internet responsibly - and how to bookmark/file their findings.

8. Keep control of the computers. This can be tricky since so much of our modern life depends on media. Set the rules and use a timer. Unplug the router during certain hours of the day. Many children today spend hours surfing online instead of exploring outside. Unplug.

Another concern is online safety. I recommend keeping computers out of bedrooms and in common spaces. If a child needs to go to his room for quiet study or for an online class, insist that the door is kept open. Use parent controls to see what websites children are visiting. And insist on keeping their passwords for email accounts.

9. Keep a calendar, and check it. I can't tell you how many times life happened and I completely missed an important event because I forgot to either write it down or to check my calendar that day. As a homeschooler and a WAHM, you have a lot on your plate. Take the extra 30 seconds to mark your calendar. I use an online calendar so that I'm sent email reminders of upcoming events.

10. Keep a to-do journal. This is a step up from the to-do lists. This is where I keep my long-term and short-term plans and where I take notes in business meetings. I often transfer the notes to Google Drive so I have a digital copy, but I like handwritten notes. It helps me retain and retrieve information.

Similarly, you can keep a journal (or a binder) for your homeschool and your children. Take notes on ideas for curriculum, enrichment, book lists, local resources, keep important phone numbers, and so on. You could also store your record keeping or planning forms if you keep it in a binder or in hanging folders.

11. Take care of yourself. Exercise and eat right. A few years ago I quit going to the gym when I overtrained for a half-marathon (walking not running) and found myself injured. One thing that became evident quickly, in addition to gaining weight, was that I accomplished less in a day even though I was saving three to four hours a week by staying home from the gym. My sleeping habits suffered and I was more fatigued. Eat right, exercise, and, while you're at it, get a good night's sleep.

12. Determine what can go and must stay. What is non-negotiable? What can be let go? In your to-do journal, on page one, write down your non-negotiables. Perhaps it's read-aloud time during lunch. Or nature walks on Saturday mornings. Or weekday Mass.

Then write down what can be removed from your schedule, or given to someone else in the family. It could be that you're doing too many outside activities or assigning mere busy work to the children. It may be as small as having a high-maintenance haircut or changing a wreath on the front door with the seasons. Eliminate the extraneous things that don’t help you reach your homeschool and/or business goals.

13. Find a housekeeper or mother's helper. I have a housekeeper who comes to my home for three hours every other week. As a professional, she is able to accomplish more housecleaning in three hours than I could do in six. I also like that it motivates me to tidy up so that she can focus on deep cleaning.

When my children were all little, I employed a teenager from our homeschool group as a mother's helper. She would engage the children while I worked on writing and special projects. If your children are young and your work hours are set in stone (for example if you teach online classes from 1:00 to 3:00 or meet one-on-one with clients), a mother's helper or babysitter is a necessity.

14. Determine your spouse's role. Can he help more, either teaching or doing housework? What expectations does he need to let go of? If you are working outside of the realm of homemaking and child rearing, it is vital that your husband takes a more active role in homeschooling. If not, he will likely need to lower expectations regarding meals and housekeeping.

If you're a single parent, you have a much more difficult job balancing work and homeschooling. You will likely need to rely more heavily on some of the other bullet points in this list such as paid help or engaging the assistance or your parents.

15. Schedule time just for your kids. Block out certain hours where you take no phone calls and conduct zero business. Giving your children your undivided attention for predetermined blocks of time will free up your time later when you need to get down to business. In the long run, your children will learn that they can't interrupt you during "office hours" and that they'll be rewarded with solid "mom time" later.

Manage your schedule. Work before the kids get up. Work when your husband gets home. But make sure you get enough sleep. When I co-wrote my first book, A Catholic Homeschool Treasury, I worked into the wee hours of the night. I didn't want to take time away from my children, so I waited until they went to bed to work. The problem was that I was subsisting on four hours of sleep over many months. I ended up seriously ill, which wasn't good for me or my family.

16. Seek outside help. Co-ops, private tutors, or online courses can help take the edge off. Note that you still need to be engaged as a homeschooler - making sure deadlines are met, work is getting done, and holding your children accountable - but you'll still save time since direct instruction is being done by a trusted source.

17. Multi-task. What tasks can your combine to save time? One of my favorites is "carschooling". When driving, the children and I can pray a rosary, listen to an audio book, have a Socratic discussion, plug in an educational CD, and so on.

18. Demand respect from your spouse and children. Once my husband came home and asked, "What do you do all day anyway?" Once.

I used to have a bumper sticker that read, "Mothering: A Proud Profession". Raising and homeschooling children is as important, if not more, than working in the business world. Additionally, you are juggling multiple jobs. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job. Being a homeschool mom is another full-time job. Add "business woman" to that and you are stretched. Demand respect.

19. Grandparents. Grandparents can be an amazing resource. They have the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Think about how your parents can engage your children. Perhaps your dad is outdoorsman who would love to spend time in nature with your children. Perhaps your mom is a whiz at science and would volunteer to do kitchen-table experiments with the kids. Ask them if they'd like to be a part of your homeschool.

20. PRAY!!! This could be both first and last on this list of tips. It is certainly the most important. Don't let the busyness of the day interfere with your prayer life. Have a set prayer time with the children. Get time before the Blessed Sacrament. Get to Mass a little early so you have time to reflect and talk with our Lord. And, get those kids praying for you - every day!

If you have further tips and examples of how you balance homeschooling and outside work, please share with the rest of us in the comments.

PS I found a couple of books on the topic of homeschooling and working at home. I haven't read them, so I can't recommend them one way or the other. But, if you want to check them out, including reading reviews, here you go:
Schooling at Home, While Working at Home
How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advice, Tips, and Strategies from Parents




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why Take Accounting in High School (Online Classes for Homeschoolers)


10 Reasons Why You Should
Sign-up for Accounting

By Peggy Morrow


Visit www.homeschoolconnections.com



Whether or not you are interested in either an Accounting major in college or working in the field, following are 10 reasons why having a basic understanding of accounting will benefit you in life.

  1. Helping you to discern God’s will - According to Bishop Barron’s recent eBook titled How to Discern God’s Will For Your Life, in the end, all discernment boils down to one ultimate goal: finding the path of greatest love. If you are passionate about all things related to running either your own business or someone else’s this course will help you discern whether you should pursue further study. In addition to business considerations, according to my parish priest, If you are called to be a priest, you will need to have a basic understanding of accounting. Should God’s will call you to only need some basic background, you’ll be prepared for a vocation to married, single, or religious life!
  2. Requires basic math skills - accountants and bookkeepers spend a lot of time adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  For these activities, they use calculators, spreadsheets, and other specialized computer tools.  Other math skills such as advanced algebra, geometry, and calculus are not required.  So if you were always successful at basic math courses (even if you were not so good at algebra and beyond), this may be a good class for you to check out!
  3. Never flip a burger - in my senior year in high school, I worked for an electrical contractor who trained me to process their payroll and financial transactions. I got to work Monday through Friday after school, and went home by dinner time. They paid me more than minimum wage, also giving me several raises and bonuses. Additionally, they taught me skills that both allowed me to earn money during college and understand the importance of attending college.  If you think that you want a skill beyond fast food, this course is a great starting place as you will learn enough to seek a bookkeeping position.
  4. Work anywhere on the planet - Accountants and related occupations are needed everywhere.  So you can live anywhere in the world, and will still be able to find employment.   That can include working from home. My Grandma worked as a bookkeeper almost her whole life for the same moving and storage company in Washington D.C.  Once she got married and started to raise a family in the 1930s, her employer asked her to keep working from home as many hours as possible while tending to her family.  So she was a pioneering telecommuter!  Since my Grandmother’s day, the possibilities of working from home have only increased!  
  5. Leadership - Whether your ambition is to run a small or large business, a church, or a diocese, accounting skills will equip you to be an effective leader. Accountants possess the knowledge of the entire operation (not just 1 segment). They obtain this knowledge because they need to understand what financial transactions are happening throughout the entire organization. For this reason, about a quarter of all CEOs are accountants and/or have an accounting background. Even if you don’t become the boss, your skills will provide leadership to others. Accounting involves using problem solving and helping everyone out in an organization– trying to figure out how to record a transaction, how to make a budget work, how to interpret a contract, and other guidance on what to do and how to proceed.
  6. You’ll always have a jobaccountants and related occupations are in high demand (no matter the industry) and are usually the last to go when a business is closed since they have to pay the bills. There is a wide variety of jobs available within the accounting field.  Besides accounting ops, there is financial management, auditing, budgeting, consulting, policy, taxation, financial analysis, etc.  On a related note, Business Intelligence (BI) is a growing area of employment.  People who have the combination of business sense, financial analysis, statistics, and data extraction/manipulation and reporting skills are in great demand right now and are paid well.
  7. You make decent money - Whether you become a bookkeeper which requires little post-secondary training and earns $38,000, or a financial manager which requires a bachelor’s degree and earns $120,000 or more per year. You will earn enough money to live comfortably.
  8. You’ll gain a better understanding of both historical and current events - References to accounting and accounting practices exist throughout history including biblical times. For example, the Apostle Matthew was a Tax Collector (requires an accounting degree today), in Luke 16:2 the dishonest steward is asked to “give an account of his stewardship,” and Leviticus 25 provides financial guidance for the Israelites.  Understanding generally accepted practices will enlighten your perspective on current and past events. Click to read more on this topic.
  9. Always something happening  - Accounting careers have both routine work and variety.   For example, your routine will consist of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual duties.  You will always have something to do so you will not get bored. Since you’ve got lots to do and there are things that are routine, you get a sense of accomplishment when you finish a task. Additionally, because you will understand how a business is run, you will be the first to know when changes or unexpected events arise as you know the financial standing of the organization.
  10. Personal financial management skills - Accounting is a life skill; i.e., everyone needs to know how to manage their finances, so training in accounting gives you an edge in this life skill area.

I hope this top-10 list helps you as you plan your high school career as well as your vocation. May God bless you and your future.

To sign up for Accounting Part One (fall semester) at Homeschool Connections: https://reg129.imperisoft.com/HomeschoolConnectionsOnline/ProgramDetail/3138303132/Registration.aspx

To sign up for Accounting Part Two (spring semester) at Homeschool Connections: https://reg129.imperisoft.com/HomeschoolConnectionsOnline/ProgramDetail/3138303135/Registration.aspx

Once the live course is completed, it will be available as a recorded course through our Unlimited Access Program.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Top-Ten: Why Learn Coding in High School (and ... get college credit to boot)

Top-10 Reasons: 

Why You Should Sign-up for AP Computer Science Principles

 By Margaret (Peggy) Morrow, Ph.D.

Homeschool Connections is offering a brand new AP-level Computer Science course in the upcoming school year. We hope you'll consider joining us! 


  1. To Help You Discern God’s Will. According to Bishop Barron’s recent eBook, How to Discern God’s Will For Your Life, in the end, all discernment boils down to one ultimate goal: finding the path of greatest love. If you are passionate about all things tech, this course will help you discern whether you should pursue further study. If you find God’s will calls you to only have some basic background in order to follow the path of greatest love He is calling you to, you’ll be prepared for your vocation!
  2. You Can Love Computer Science Without Being a Fan of Video Games and All Things Tech. Okay, I admit it, I worked in the field of computer science for almost 20 years, and I am not a fan of video games! Additionally, my spouse loves having and using the latest technology while I am happy with a flip phone. My gifts include: organizing data and structures, and listening to people who are far more gifted than me in math, science, and the creative aspects of projects. With their help, I can document, explain, and package their work for customers. I love teaching computer science!   
  3. Apply Your Special Talents and Interests. Students get to choose both what they create and what they research for the in-class portion of the exam. Additionally, they get to choose what software tool they use to create their products!!! Do you like animation, or would you like to research the evolution of computer animations in children’s movies? Are you a fan of a specific virtual reality game? Would you like to explore computing’s role in the evolution of weather modeling? Do you want to know how the Vatican keeps its cyber systems secure? Since computer science is applied everywhere in our world, you can explore your own unique creative perspective.
  4. Needed Skills for a Variety of Occupations and Ability Levels. I once went on a mission trip to Honduras and relied on the limited amount of Spanish I had learned in middle school. My basic understanding of the language allowed me to communicate, read road signs, restroom signs, greet people, and enjoy the great culture. For situations that required a language expert, I was blessed to have an NSA Spanish language translator traveling with me! Since the tools and products of computer science are a part of all 21st-century occupations, having at least a basic understanding of the structure of programming languages and how products are created will help you to navigate foreign territory even if you only know the basics.
  5. Make Amazing Apps! The course will make use of the Mobile-CSP Curriculum, which was developed by two Catholic Colleges:  Trinity College and The College of St. Scholastica.  According to the project's’ website: you will learn computer science by building socially useful mobile apps. In addition to programming and computer science principles, the course is project-based and emphasizes writing, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  So you will use multiple skills!
  6. Enormous Career Possibilities - job openings in computer science related fields are growing faster than most other occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics!!! Additionally, the opportunities exist in lots of sectors of the economy. For example, computer science professionals work everywhere both geographically and professionally including hospitals, municipalities, corporations, diocesan offices, schools, governments, Kansas, New York, Ireland, Dubai, your home office, etc.
  7. In-class Collaborative Exam - AP Computer Science Principles is the first and ONLY AP course offered to High School students with an in-class portion of the AP exam. This portion of the exam counts for 40% of the exam grade.  If you like working with a partner, 24% of the in-class exam can be created either with a partner or individually.  In the 2016-2017 school year, the first year the course was launched, the course was very popular with 45,000 students completing the exam!
  8. Dress Code - the field of computer science accommodates all tastes in dress code.  For example, some firms require formal dress while others only require that you are dressed.  For the later, a tee-shirt and shorts are apropos.  Whatever your style, you’ll find a job that will support your tastes!
  9. Culturally Diverse Workplace - because computer scientists are in short supply, the U.S. tends to import workers from around the world.   Additionally, jobs in other countries are plentiful.  Working in the field of computer science provided me with the experience of being able to learn about and experience other cultures.  For example, after spending the day going to church and hiking with my family, a Mexican coworker gave me beautiful Guadalupe candles as a thank you gift.  Additionally, I learned first-hand about the 1989 Tiananmen Square student-led protests from a coworker that had been there!
  10. Protection from cyber crimes and cyber warfare - From the time of Adam and Eve through more recent times the technology of crime and warfare has evolved.  Additionally, cyber crime and cyber warfare are both on the rise.  Recent problems with the U.S. election, malware attacks on personal and corporate computers, and the rise of fake news testify to the growing problems.  Likewise, the success of various attacks indicates that both individuals and countries need to build-up their computer science based defense systems.  Recent estimates project the U.S. economies’ cost of cybercrime as ranging between $450 Billion to $2 Trillion dollars a year, and cyber warfare costs run in the trillions of dollars. In order to minimize the impact, corporations, individuals, and governments are increasing their spending on computer science-based products to defend against both threats.  Consequently, skilled individuals are needed to ward off attacks on the power grid, businesses, personal identity and credit, and government.   On a personal note, I am currently the beneficiary of three different credit monitoring services due to workplace and retail hacks. Despite these services, I wonder where and when the next personal threat will arise.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kimberly Hahn Presents: Catholic College Credit for Homeschool Students

Here at Homeschool Connections, we are excited to be a part of Franciscan University's new dual-enrollment program and to be able to introduce it to the Catholic homeschooling community.


This program is open to all homeschoolers. It is a great way to save on college tuition. Students earn college credit in high school, which they can take to any college that accepts FUS credits.

To help insure their success, students need to be at least 16, a high school junior or senior, and carry a minimum 2.5 GPA. Homeschool Connections students get an additional 10% discount.

Thank you Franciscan University in Steubenville for all your hard work in creating this program and thank you Kimberly Hahn for presenting this video for us.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dual-Enrollment Online for Homeschool Students



STEUBENVILLE, OH – In an exciting move allowing homeschool students to earn college credit before ever stepping foot on campus, Franciscan University of Steubenville has partnered with HomeschoolConnections.com to provide a 10 percent post-secondary tuition discount on online undergraduate classes for select homeschool students.

According to Maureen Wittmann, co-founder of HomeschoolConnections.com, the agreement allows eligible families to experience substantial savings on college costs.

"College has gotten so expensive," said Wittmann. "It's a big financial burden on many families, but dual enrollment with college credit can help lighten that burden."

The discount, which will be available starting August 2017, is open to junior and senior high school-level students whose families are members of HomeschoolConnections.com, a Catholic faith-based organization that provides online classes to homeschool students and teaching resources for their parents. Eligible students will be able to take up to two discounted Franciscan University classes per semester, including summer, for a maximum total of 12 undergraduate courses while still finishing their high school-level coursework.

"Our partnership with HomeschoolConnections.com creates an avenue for homeschooling families to start their children's college education with our passionately Catholic and academically excellent courses, building on the faith foundation they have established in their homes," said Franciscan University President Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR. "With so many students coming to us from homeschools, we are happy to make a Franciscan University education more affordable and accessible to them. We see this outreach to homeschooling families as an important aspect of our service to the Church."

Franciscan will begin offering select undergraduate classes online for the first time during the fall 2017 semester. The courses will be drawn from Franciscan's core curriculum, which includes philosophy, theology, literature, and natural and social sciences.

While the online classes are open to all qualified students, the discount is only available to HomeschoolConnections.com members.

Through the partnership, Franciscan University will become the exclusive higher education sponsor of the HomeschoolConnections.com parent webinars and online conferences, which are offered free throughout the year. Past webinar topics have included college preparation and how to avoid homeschool "burnout."

The partnership is a natural fit for both organizations. Approximately 19 percent of Franciscan University students come from homeschool families, while HomeschoolConnections.com shares a similar mission to the University.

"Our mission is well aligned with Franciscan: academically excellent and passionately Catholic," said Wittmann. "Franciscan University challenges the mind but also the heart and the soul—it just feeds students so completely. It's the reason we're so excited to work with Franciscan."

HomeschoolConnections.com was founded in 2008 in the spirit of St. John Paul the Great's teaching on the domestic church and the new evangelization. Seeking to use technology to enhance the homeschooling experience, HomeschoolConnections.com offers both interactive and pre-recorded online classes on a variety of topics from math to science, literature to writing, and theology to philosophy. Giving parents the tools to fulfill their God-given vocations as educators, HomeschoolConnections.com also offers free webinars, eBooks, and educational videos.

To learn more about the Franciscan University-HomeschoolConnections.com partnership, visit franciscan.edu/homeschoolconnections.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Small Business Saturday for Catholic Homeschoolers

By Maureen Wittmann

Nearly 40 years ago, economist EF Schumacher published Small is Beautiful. It criticized gigantism. It criticized big. In short, Schumacher suggested we need to downsize and reorganize how we make products and how we live.

I like to support small businesses whenever possible. My vocation as a Catholic homeschooler has been largely supported (and blessed) by small businesses. Businesses that created quality products and curricula I couldn't find elsewhere.

Small Business Saturday is today, the day following Black Friday. It's a great day to get outside and visit small, family-owned companies in your town. It's also a great day to see what's online. The internet has been a boon for many small businesses. Entrepreneurs who can't afford a physical location, can reach customers in innovative ways. You can create a website, get on Etsy, build a marketing email list. Some people are even using Facebook as a storefront.

Below are just a few small businesses online to check out. I've included craft shops, book sellers, publishers, and more. These are just some of my favorites. Please share your favorites in the comments.


Harp and Shamrock Croft
If you need a skirt for your Christmas tree yet, head to this Etsy Shop pronto. You'll also find other hand sewn items such as aprons (I like the mother-daughter ones!) and table runners, as well as handcrafted goats milk soap.


My Little Felt Friends
You'll have to save this Etsy Shop to your Favorites to visit after Christmas since, due to it's popularity, it's all sold out right now. I've stocked up on the little handmade felt dolls for my grandchildren. They're perfect for gifts for littles.


Laney Bell Designs
I love the hand painted wood signs. Laney also designs beautiful stationary. Just for Christmas, she recently added hand lettered Christmas ornaments. Everything is very reasonably priced.


Punch and Judy Pegs
Wooden peg dolls are all the rage right now. They're small for a child's hand and fairly indestructible. However, these are works of art and so don't come cheap. You can place custom orders. In fact, I recently place my own custom order for a set with St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.


Sweet Oak Gallery
Have you ever seen an abacus style rosary? Me neither! Go check these out - such a fun, original idea for praying the rosary. Another neat idea at Sweet Oak is the Novena Reminder (something I need!!). Lauren also has watercolor and beautiful hand-lettered prints.


Robin's Soap Shoppe
This is where I buy all my bars of soap. Yes, $5 for a bar of soap sounds pricey compared to a bar of Dove. However, these handmade soaps last incredibly longer. So, in the long run, they're money savers. And they are heavenly to boot.


Hair Bows for Life
If you have a little girl in your life, don't waste a second and head over to Hair Bows for Life. Cute, cute, cute! And really well made to boot. The best part is that Ceci donates part of the profits to pro-life organizations.


Loreto Rosaries and Catholic Jewelry
This is my go-to place for heirloom rosaries and religious jewelry. It is expensive, but that's because Ruth only uses the best materials and meticulously handcrafts every piece. I'd rather own one quality piece that I can hand down to my children than a drawer full of cheap items. When I need a special gift, I call on Ruth as she is terrific about doing custom orders.


Cajun Cottage Press
From Catholic homeschool author and speaker Cay Gibson comes the Season Book of Days: "a redefined almanac. It's a planner...an organizer...a journal...a plotter...a menu chart...a meditative prayer...an accountability coach...a tutorial...a drawing board...a reflection...a blend of mindful intention in essays."


Banners By Chris
These are custom banners, hand-crafted from high-quality card stocks and fabrics for your next celebration. This is an example of the new trend of small business selling through Facebook.



New to You Books
Here is another business that operates out of Facebook. Join the group to get updates on great used books. Perfect for the homeschool mom who is always on the search for her home library.


Catholic Daily Planner by Michele Quigley
These are not only functional but pretty. I know this is picky, but I like my planner to start the weeks on Sunday. I love that these planners are also filled with inspirational quotes, feast days, and Mass readings.


RC History
This small business is especially known for publishing Connecting with History. Sonya's latest publication is Knights of Art: Stories of the Italian Painters, which is a collection of biographical stories with beautiful illustrations. It's on sale right now if you purchase two, so head on over and stock up for Christmas.


Hillside Education
Margot has been dedicated to helping Catholic families homeschool for a long, long time. Here you will find literature guides, homeschooling and liturgical books, and language arts curricula.


Chesterton Press
This is Regina Doman's publishing house where you'll find loads of fun Catholic fiction. You can even purchase a gift certificate if the reader on your Christmas list would like the joy of choosing his or her own book.


True North Reading
Erin Brown Conroy, Homeschool Connections' Master Writing Instructor, is also the creator of an innovative, online, reading program. Get face-to-face, video lessons for your child. This is a good resource too if your child struggles with learning disabilities.


Veils by Lily
You can find a wide selection of beautifully handmade (and to-order) veils at Veils by Lily. They can only be described as lovely!



Rosary Bench
Beautiful rosaries, tenners, and chaplets. Jennifer also provides repair services for broken rosaries (if you have all the parts, it's almost free).



Rugged Rosaries
These are for the man in your life. Made from paracord, these are definitely "rugged rosaries". Military receive a nice discount. 



Arx Publishing
This small publishing house is run by Catholic homeschool dad Tony Schiavo. I love his selection of historical fiction, especially the Paolo Belzoni books.

CONCLUSION
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I'll be skipping the lines at Walmart, do most of my shopping online, and make sure to order from many of these small businesses for Christmas this year.

Again, please let us know about your favorite small business in the comments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

To Copy or Not to Copy: That is the Question



By Maureen Wittmann

Note: This article was originally published fifteen years ago, yet it is relevant more than ever today. It deals with photocopying. Today, we don't even need a copy machine. All we need is a laptop and a mouse. With this ability to freely share other people's intellectual property (photography, art, ebooks, curriculum, etc.), we need to take time to consider whether or not we have the moral right to do so. I hope to update this article to include new copyright issues created by the arrival of social media. In the meantime, I hope the following article is helpful to you and your homeschool. PS I did eventually purchase the full set of Lyrical Science for carschooling ... 

“Oh my, you’ve got the new Lyrical Science tapes. I’d love to have those myself!” I said to my friend.

“I’ll dub a copy for you,” she answered.

“That would be great,” I said, as I began to salivate over my soon-to-be new acquisition.

“Don’t worry about the copyright, teachers do this all the time. No reason we shouldn’t either,” my friend replied without any prompting from me. “They buy one original and then make copies for all the kids in their classroom. Our homeschool group is no different from a classroom. Besides it’s so expensive to homeschool, we shouldn’t be expected to have to buy all our materials.”

The more my friend justified making the copy for me, the more I realized that it was wrong. When I got home, I threw the dubbed tape away. To buy the original tape would’ve put too much strain on my budget, so I made the decision to simply live without it. Lyrical Science is something that surely would’ve added to my homeschool, but it was not an absolute need. I found other, less expensive, sources for science enrichment.

There was a time when I didn’t think twice about photocopying workbook pages, dubbing videotapes or audiotapes, or even pirating computer software. However, on that day I did think twice and I realized how wrong it is to do so.

First, it is illegal to steal intellectual property and as Catholics we are obliged to follow the law. (Unless, of course, it is an immoral law.) Though we may save ourselves a few dollars in copying, others are forced to pay for our “savings.” Much in the same way that shoplifters “save” themselves money but the rest of us pay more for our products to make up for the loss caused by the shoplifter.

For the purpose of this column, I’d like to focus on copying consumable workbooks. A consumable is designed to be used just once, unlike a textbook that can be reused and even resold (though not copied). It should be noted that it is not always illegal to copy consumables for multiple uses. Look at the inside cover of the workbook and read the copyright notice. Some educational publishers will grant permission there for you to make copies for your classroom. For homeschoolers, a classroom would be defined as our homeschooled children or the children in our homeschool co-op. It does not mean that we can photocopy and then sell or return.

If the copyright page does not grant permission to make copies and you truly cannot afford to buy multiple workbooks, then contact the publisher and ask permission. If the answer is “yes” that is wonderful, if the answer is “no” then you need to find another solution. At that point you should ask yourself if this particular workbook is a “need” or a “want.”

You should also consider the cost of photocopying, which isn’t always cheaper. For example, Beverly Gordon Adams grants permission to purchasers of her Spelling Power program to copy the consumable worksheets. However, it is cheaper to buy the Spelling Power workbook than to make copies at Kinko’s or Staples. (If your husband is photocopying at work, make sure that he has permission from his employer and has offered to pay for the service, ink, and paper.)

It is estimated that as much as 50% of Catholic homeschooling materials in circulation are being illicitly copied. Quite frankly, this estimate shocks me. An author recently shared with me stories of Catholic homeschool support groups who have purchased one copy of a consumable curriculum series and then passed it throughout the entire group for collective copies. She also told me of families who purchased a single workbook to photocopy for their whole family and then resold as new.

A publisher of a virtues based program told me once of how she had books returned for a refund, only to find photocopied pages still stuck inside the books. This is a program that teaches virtues! Being thrifty means being prudent, which is a virtue. It doesn’t mean taking undue advantage of writers and publishers in order to save a few dollars.

Illicit copying not only hurts writers and publishers, but also ultimately affects the cost of materials to the consumer. Catholic homeschooling publishers are already working on very thin margins. If materials are purchased instead of photocopied, then publishers can print in larger quantities, which in turn lowers the per-unit cost and results in a savings for all Catholic homeschooling families.

Most copyright and trademark violations are done out of ignorance. Just as I thought at first it was okay to accept a dubbed copy of Lyrical Science from my friend. If we choose to educate ourselves in this area and then follow the law, we will be better Christians in the end. We will be practicing the very virtues that we strive to teach our children.

Scripture tells us, “The worker is worth his wage.” The only way that an author can gain his wage is through the sale of his intellectual property. (This also applies to authors of music and software.) If we copy works without permission, we are literally stealing wages from the worker. On the other hand, if we take the time and make the effort to either seek permission to copy, or adjust our budget so that we can make the purchase, or even make the decision to utilize the library or Internet instead, we are growing in virtue.

If you are ever unsure of whether or not you can make copies of something, the solution is very simple – contact the publisher.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New Report: Homeschooling in the United States


The National Center for Education Statistics has released a new report: Homeschooling in the United States: 2012.  The full report can be found at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016096.pdf.  Although statistics on Catholic homeschoolers may be different, this is a good primer on the nation as a whole.

Some highlights from the report:
  • The percentage of students ages 5–17 with a grade equivalent of kindergarten through grade 12 who are homeschooled—the homeschooling rate—has increased over time. The homeschooling rate increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012.
  • In 2012, there were an estimated 1.8 million homeschooled students in the United States, which is an increase from 850,000 in 1999, when estimates were first reported.
  • Most homeschooled students were White (83 percent) and nonpoor (89 percent), lived in cities or suburban areas and rural areas. Homeschooled students spanned all grade equivalents.
  • Nine in 10 homeschooled students’ parents reported that concern about schools’ environments was an important reason for their decision to homeschool.
  • Websites, homeschooling catalogs, public libraries, and bookstores were the more frequently cited sources of curriculum for homeschooled students in 2012. Curricula from public and private schools were among the least cited. 
  • About a quarter of homeschooled students had parents who took a course to prepare for their child’s home instruction.
  • About a third of middle school-level homeschooled students (35 percent) and a third of high school level (34 percent) homeschooled students took online courses.
  • Most high-school level homeschooled students had home instruction that included basic algebra (88 percent), earth sciences or geology and biology (69 percent each).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Should I Learn Spanish


This article is an excerpt from the book Why Should I Learn This. To order click here:
Paperback
eBook


Why Should I Learn Spanish? 
Irma Luz Schmitt 

As our world has increasingly become interdependent, we can no longer afford to remain monolingual. Success depends in large part on the ability of an individual to function as a member of a global place whose members speak a variety of languages. Today, there are tremendous changes in the way the current generation of students interact with the world. Such changes give the study of languages (and the cultural learning that comes with it) a new dimension and importance. 
 Spanish in the global community 
More and more businesses and organizations value employees with oral and written fluency in Spanish—a language giving access to one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. Consider these statistics: 
  • Spanish is the world's third most spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese and English, and ranks second in terms of native speakers; today, almost 500 million people worldwide speak Spanish.1, 2 
  • Spanish is the mother tongue of approximately 388 million people in 21 countries (Mexico: 102 million, USA: 45 million, Spain: 44 million, Colombia: 44 million, Argentina: 39 million, Venezuela: 28 million, Peru: 28 million).3 It is also widely spoken in many more where it is not an official language.4 
  • Close to 53 million people living in the U.S. are Hispanic; the Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2012, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics constituted 17 percent of the nation's total population.5 
  • Thirty-seven million Americans are Spanish speakers.6 In the past, learning Spanish used to be a way to open doors, but soon it will be a necessity, because Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing market segment in North America.7 
 Spanish in the Liberal Arts Tradition 
Not only is learning Spanish becoming increasingly important in terms of the global economy, but it can also play a major role in your own personal development. Whether you decide to study business, political science, or some other major area, a good command of Spanish may very well make the difference in getting a job. 
In the tradition of a liberal arts education, learning a second language helps to expand your view of the world and appreciate differences among peoples.8 The study of foreign languages is an integral and indispensable part of higher education. In the traditional view, a person may be trained to competence in an occupation or profession, but to be educated in a liberal way, he or she must move beyond the limitations of one's native tongue. 
Through study of another language, students develop personality and sharpen intellect—acquiring a greater capacity for memorization and learning. Did you know that studying a second language can improve your skills and grades in math and English, and can improve entrance exam scores—SATs, ACTs, GREs, MCATs, and LSATs?9 Research has shown that math and verbal SAT scores climb higher with each additional year of foreign language study,10 which means that the longer you study a foreign language, the stronger your ability becomes to succeed in school.11 Studying a foreign language can improve your analytic and interpretive capacities.12 And three years of language study on your record will catch the eye of anyone reading your job, college, or graduate school application.13 
 The Spanish-English connection 
Studying a second language helps you gain a new perspective and understanding of the English language as well. Much of the vocabulary of English has Latin origins, and since Spanish is also a Latin language, you will find as you study Spanish that you have a better understanding of your native vocabulary.14 Similarly, both Spanish and English share Indo-European roots, so their grammars are similar. There is perhaps no more effective way to learn English grammar than to study the grammar of another language.15 Doing so forces you to think about how your language is structured. It's not unusual, for example, to gain an understanding of English verbs' tenses and moods by learning how those verbs are used in Spanish. And if you can learn Spanish, you'll have a head start in learning the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian.16 
Spanish is one of the easiest foreign languages to learn.17 Much of its vocabulary is similar to English's, and written Spanish is almost completely phonetic: Look at almost any Spanish word and you can tell how it is pronounced. And while mastering Spanish grammar can be a challenge, basic grammar is straightforward. 
 Foreign language requirement for college 
Competitive colleges generally require at least two years of foreign language classes in high school. Some colleges would like to see three or more years, and Harvard suggest applicants to take four years.18 These classes should be in the same language—colleges would much prefer to see proficiency in one language than a superficial knowledge of several languages. 
When a college recommends two or more years of a language, they are clearly signaling that language study beyond two years would strengthen your application. Indeed, no matter where you apply for college, a demonstrated proficiency in a second language will strengthen your application. Life in college and after college is becoming increasingly globalized, so strength in a second language carries a lot of weight with admissions counselors.19 
Learning foreign languages is no longer a pastime—it is a necessity that can yield remarkable personal and professional satisfaction. 


About the Author 
Irma Luz Schmitt was born in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, MéxicoShe graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology) in Monterrey, México, with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 1986 and a Master’s Degree in Education in 1999. In 2005, she earned a certification from Cambridge University in England to teach English as a second language. 
Irma Luz Schmitt offers online Spanish courses for middle and high school students with Homeschool Connections as both live, interactive courses and recorded, independent-study courses. She and her husband live and homeschool in Delaware.