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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speakers for the Refresh! Conference

Renew! Rejuvenate! Recharge!

We have some great speakers lined up for the Refresh! Virtual Midwinter Conference. Here are their biographies:

Joseph Pearce
Professor Pearce is an internationally acclaimed author of many books, which include G. K. Chesterton: Wisdom and Innocence, Literary Converts, Tolkien: Man and Myth, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile, The Quest for Shakespeare, and Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc. Professor Pearce converted to the Catholic faith in 1989. As a younger man, Pearce was “extremely anti-Catholic” and even had opposed Pope John Paul II’s visits to England. His viewpoint gradually shifted as he learned more about the writings and beliefs of the literary converts he would later profile, particularly G. K. Chesterton. As Writer in Residence and professor of literature at St. Thomas More College in New Hampshire, Pearce also serves as Editor of the Saint Austin Review and is editor-in-chief of Sapientia Books. Professor Pearce shares his expertise and enthusiasm with Catholic high school students as an instructor for Homeschool Connections, teaching Shakespearean literature.

A native of Great Britain, Pearce relocated to the United States in 2001 to serve at Ave Maria University. An accomplished teacher and speaker, Pearce has participated and lectured at a wide variety of international and literary events throughout the U.S., Britain, Europe, and Canada. He has served as a consultant for film documentaries on J. R. R. Tolkien and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His thirteen-part television series, The Quest for Shakespeare, has appreaded on EWTN.

Professor Pearce's free webinar for Refresh! is: The Catholic Revival from Newman to Tolkien (click on title to register).

Nancy Brown
Nancy is our resident expert on Frances Chesterton, wife of the British Author G.K. Chesterton. Nancy has compiled a collection of Frances's plays and poetry which was published last year, and is just finishing up her biography, which will be out either late this year or next. Frances was instrumental in Gilbert's conversion, and there are many who say that when the cause for Gilbert's canonization is opened, it should be opened together, for Gilbert and Frances, as a married couple.

Nancy also has 2 Chestertonian study guides to help high school parents introduce their teens to Chesterton, a study guide for Chesterton's biography of St. Francis of Assisi and a study guide to the first Father Brown mystery, The Blue Cross. For younger children, Nancy has adapted the Father Brown stories for ages 8 to 12 with the Father Brown Reader One and Two. Nancy works at the American Chesterton Society as their Social Media Manager. She has spoken at their conferences, and writes for Gilbert Magazine.

Mrs. Brown's free webinar for Refresh! is:  Your Own Toy Theater: G.K. Chesterton's Legacy with Children (click on title to register).

Rita Munn
Rita and her husband Ronald are the parents of 10 grown children. They have been on the homeschooling journey for approximately 20 years and have found that journey to filled with enough challenge to make it interesting and enough fun to make it joyfilled. God is good and in His gracious and abundant mercy He allows that our journey continue and remain the focus of our family life. Catholic homeschooling continues to be a very real part of our life and watching the new generation of grandchildren begin is indeed a great blessing.

Mrs. Munn's free webinar for Refresh! is: Fueling the Peace Lamp to Prevent Burnout (click on title to register).

Katherine O'Brien
Katherine is the founder and principal college planning specialist at Celtic College Consultants where she's been serving families all across the USA since 2004. As an award winning speaker who has addressed local, regional, and national educational conferences, she is known for her no nonsense style and her ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly. Katherine, a graduate of Northwestern University in engineering and Franciscan University of Steubenville with a Master's in Theology, is a seasoned home educator with over a dozen years of teaching experience. Her first book, The Ultimate Guide to Getting Top Quality College Planning is due to be released through Amazon in February, 2013. She resides in southern California with her six children and can be found online at

Mrs. O'Brien's free webinar for Refresh! is: 20 Factors Admission Committees Consider and How Students Can Develop Themselves into Excellent Applicants and College Students (click on title to register).

Mary Ellen Barrett
Mary Ellen is a homeschooling mother of eight children. She is a longtime columnist for The Long Island Catholic (Life in Our Domestic Church) and speaks on a variety of topics at Catholic conferences and parishes around the United States. Mary Ellen is currently working on two books, on about mothering a large family and the other is an Advent Books of Days. She can be found blogging at Tales from the Bonny Blue House and during the Advent season at O Night Divine.

Besides writing and blogging, Mary Ellen enjoys cooking, sewing, photography, and studying theology.

Mrs. Barrett's free webinar for Refresh! is: How to Homeschool and Not Lose Your Mind (click on title to register).

Erin Brown Conroy
Erin is an instructor for Homeschool Connections and also a professor for Patrick Henry College.  She is an author of several non-fiction books, including the recently published Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets for College Writing Success.  Professor Brown Conroy has designed four college writing courses, including an AP English Language and Composition course for PHC Preparatory Academy online. Professor Brown Conroy also speaks at conferences on the teaching of writing. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, she is also a fiction writing coach for high school and college students and has judged writing contests. She is also a freelance professional writer and ghostwriter. Professor Brown Conroy also authored True North Reading: The Complete Mastery Reading and Spelling Program, a five-level multisensory learn-to-read program for children ages 3 to 15. Professor Brown Conroy has been homeschooling for 27 years. She enjoys her two Australian Labradoodles, playing the Irish wooden flute, and homeschooling five of her 13 children who still live at home.

Professor Brown Conroy's free webinars for Refresh! are:
Simplified Writing: What Every High School Student Needs to Succeed 
Simplified Writing: What Every MIDDLE School Student Needs to Succeed
Healthy Mind, Happy Heart: How to Build Your Child's Attitude and Focus
Schooling Multiple Ages: Tips from a Mom of 13 (Homeschooling 27 Years and Counting)
Balanced Parenting: Real Actions that Make Parenting Easier 
(click on title of your choice to register)

Ana Braga-Henebry
Ana homeschools her seven children with her husband, Geoff Henebry, a research scientist and university professor. They live in an acreage north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ana has an art degree from the St. Teresa d'Avila College, Brazil, and a Masters in Humanities/Aesthetic Studies from The University of Texas at Dallas. The family has lived in Texas, Kansas, Brazil, New Jersey, and Nebraska as they followed Geoff's career in academia.  Today they are experimenting with acreage life, collecting fresh eggs daily, and attempting to care for vegetable gardens in South Dakota, which is a long way from Ana's childhood years in the very big city of Rio de Janeiro.

Ana reviewed children's and parenting materials for Parent Council, LTD. from 1994 until 2002. She has enjoyed reviewing for Love2Learn, the premier Catholic Resources reviews site, since March 2006. Ana writes a monthly feature for Faith & Family Live and has worked on a variety of writing projects. She has also been on the editorial board of mater et magista, the Catholic homeschooling periodical, writing both feature articles and book reviews, since its inception. She blogs vignettes of family and acreage life with pictures, recipes, and occasional favorite books or opinions on contemporary issues at

Mrs. Henebry's free Refresh! webinar is: Twenty Years of the Henebry Homeschool; What Worked for Us (click on title to register).

Maria Rioux
Maria began her undergraduate studies at Thomas Aquinas College. There she met her husband, Jean, Homeschool Connections' philosophy instructor and chair of the philosophy department at Benedictine College (where Maria is a theology major slowly completing her degree).  Together they have been homeschooled their nine children for more than 20 years. In those early days of homeschooling there were not many resources available. As a consequence, they developed their own curriculum which reflects their love for classical education as well as their affection for Charlotte Mason.

Maria is owner and co-moderator of the yahoo group The History Place. She loves to write and is a regular contributor to mater et magistra magazine. She is also a reviewer for Love2Learn.

Maria has been a speaker at homeschooling conferences and a guest lecturer at Benedictine College. Her talks include: Living the Liturgical Year in the Domestic Church, The Woman's Role in the Church, The Best of Both: Merging a Classical Education with Charlotte Mason's Methods, The Blessings in Crosses, and Ora et Labora: Service as Prayer. Maria is a member of the planning committee which helped to develop the Charlotte Mason based curriculum, Mater Amabilis. She is a contributing author to Cay Gibson's book, Literature Alive! 

Mrs. Rioux's free webinar for Refresh! is Ora et Labora: Loving Service as Prayer (click on title to register).

Carol Reynolds, Ph.D.
Professor Carol was Associate Professor of Music History at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas for 20 years. More recently, she has served the homeschooling community through her curriculum Discovering Music: 300 Years of Interaction in Music, Arts, History, and Culture. Professor Carol will begin as an instructor for Homeschool Connections in the 2013/2014 school year.

Carol is a uniquely talented and much sought-after speaker for arts venues and general audiences. Never dull or superficial, Carol brings to her audiences a unique mix of humor, substance, and skilled piano performance to make the arts more accessible and meaningful to all. Carol has led tours to Russia, Austria, Germany, San Francisco, and Broadway on behalf of several arts organizations. Her enthusiasm and boundless energy give tour participants an unforgettable experience. She makes her home on a farm near Bowie, Texas, where, with her husband and teenage daughter, she raises La Mancha goats and soaks up the rich cultural heritage of rural America. The family maintains a second residence in Weimar, Germany — the home of Goethe, Schiller, Bach, and Liszt, and the focal point of much of Europe’s artistic heritage.

Professor Carol's free webinars for Refresh! are:
Bringing American Geography and History Alive through the Arts
Transitioning to College: Top Five Skills for Academic Success
(click on title of your choice to register).

Renew! Rejuvenate! Recharge!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Free Catholic Homeschool Conference Online

Renew! Rejuvenate! Recharge!

Hey! I'm totally excited to tell you about this!

First, I have to ask you ... Have you ever felt those midwinter doldrums? Does homeschooling tend to bog down for you during certain times of the year? I know it does for me. Here's something we can get excited about!

Beginning in next week, you'll get a chance to rejuvenate your spirit, encourage your heart, and feel inspired & recharged in your homeschooling with our upcoming series of FREE webinars for homeschool parents (Yes, 14 webinars that you attend from home, all free, with nationally known speakers)--all online and even recorded, spread out over the month of February, so that you can get great inspiration and ideas exactly when you need it.

Click here to see a list of all the talks and register: Refresh! Midwinter Virtual Conference

February is known as "Burnout Month" in homeschooling circles, and we thought it would be good to help us all get through that tough month with something extraordinary: the Refresh! Midwinter Virtual Conference.

Refresh! begins Monday, February 4, and lasts through the entire month of February with a full schedule of practical how-to helps, to keep your homeschool vital, alive, and fun! When you come, you'll join us online and have access to speakers who will do everything from encouraging you in your vocation to giving you great practical tips to apply every day.

We pray that February 2013 will be your best month ever for homeschooling and for your family--so that you no longer think of February as as Burnout Month, but instead, as Refresh! Month. Please pray for us as we organize this free online conference.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: The Complete Catholic Homeschool Planner

The Complete Catholic Homeschool Planner 
Review by Maria Rioux 

The Complete Catholic Homeschool Planner is just that: it organizes everything you need to plan the year, and then some. It opens with a school year calendar, for this year and for next, so one can easily determine what date one would like to start, when to schedule breaks, and when to close out the year.

I really like the simple overview, with all the dates for the whole year on one page, both sides. One can then easily determine the number of school days per month, number for each quarter, and total number of days for the year. This, of course, is essential in planning out the syllabus for each child. I've never actually planned out our school year in this way as we always follow my husband's teaching schedule, which works best for us as some of our children attend the same college were he teaches. If he were not a professor with a built in teaching schedule, this simple way to concretely plan out the year, month by month, would give me peace while also keeping me honest at those times when I would be tempted to ditch the plan.

For each child there is an opening page to help you consider the best approach/how to tailor this year to his particular strengths and weaknesses. Like the year plan, it's a simple overview: learning style, strengths, weaknesses, goals, subject to over, programs/curricula of interest, books to use, and a place for additional notes all on one page. It's a great way to reflect on the individual child before drafting a plan for him. There is then a section to, in a general way, plan out the year, then each quarter(referred to as term), followed by weekly outline forms and a page for notes. In another section there are forms for daily lesson plans, starting with an overview for the month and followed by forms for detailed daily lesson planning. There is a separate section for grading, organized by daily grades and quarter test grades. It makes record keeping a snap, with everything in one place: the yearly plan neatly broken down but tailored to each child, followed by an accounting of his accomplishments. It would give one a concrete sense of the progress the child is making, as well as a sense of where he might be struggling and what might need tweaking/extra attention.

The Complete Catholic Homeschool Planner supplies extra forms: attendance forms, and a student page I really like. I wish I had thought to do something like this when we were starting homeschooling 24 years ago. It records the height, weight, signature, likes, dislikes, and personal goals for the beginning and end of the school year, and separating the two is a spot to put a picture. It is such a lovely idea. Not only would I have treasured such a record, I think our children would have enjoyed seeing the changes over the years.

There are also forms for extracurricular activities, music, reading, audio/visual and website logs, as well as forms for planning the coming year: books and topics to consider, and notes. I like the contact pages at the end of the planner, because I could have the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of all my homeschooling friends all in one place.

Best of all, it is wonderfully Catholic. There is a whole section titled, "For the Love of God". It begins with a list of prayers, each geared toward ordering the day to doing the will of God with love and obedience. There are those which focus upon the child, the mother, the family and one's husband, plus novenas. There are prayers I was familiar with, but some I expected to know yet had never heard before, and now plan to say at the end of each day. For example, An Act of Contrition:
Forgive me my sins, O Lord, forgive me my sins; the sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul, the sins of my body; my idle sins, my serious voluntary sins, the sins I know, the sins I do not know, the sins I have concealed so long, and which are now hidden from my memory. I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial, for all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour. I know my sins have wounded Thy tender Heart, O my Savior. Let me be freed from the bonds of evil through Thy most bitter passion, O my Redeemer. Amen. O Jesus, help me with Thy grace to avoid all sin. Amen.
The feast days of the saints are listed (according to the traditional calendar). There is a section for recording your prayer intentions, virtues to work on, as well as your plan to concretely work on those virtues.

Lastly, on each page of the daily lesson plans there is an inspirational quote from a saint. Some will be familiar, but some were certainly new to me and perfect for mothers, fathers, and children alike. For example:
Consider every day that you are then, for the first time, as it were, beginning; and always act with the same fervor as on the first day you began.
     ~ St. Anthony of Padua. 
The Complete Catholic Homeschool Planner supplies enough forms for five students. If that is not enough, permission is granted to print more for the school year. It is spiral bound and very sturdy.

The cover is beautiful: Mary with the Child Jesus cradled in one arm, and a spotless lamb in the other. Both the front cover and the back are of glossy card stock, and the various sections are separated by tabbed dividers for ease of use. They're strong and capable dividers, too, and will stand the test of time and use. You could take this around with you everywhere and it would hold up.

For ordering information please visit: Cascia Books

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

24 New Online Courses Now

Twenty Four Reasons to Try Unlimited Access! with Homeschool Connections

With the start of the Spring 2013 semester, we've added 24 brand new recorded courses to our catalog of 100 courses, bringing us to 124! Yes, 124 recorded courses for independent learning in your homeschool. The wonderful thing is that you can have Unlimited Access to all 124 courses for only $30 a month. It's the best deal in Catholic Homeschooling today. Click here: Unlimited Access to learn how.

Here are the 24 new courses:
  • German I; German is Fun! Part One 
  • Latin III; Wheelock, Part One 
  • Spanish ½: Beginning Spanish, Part One 
  • Spanish II; Intermediate Spanish, Part One 
  • Constitutional Law: Supreme Court Jurisprudence I 
  • Early American History (1492-1763); Discovery to the Dawn of Revolution 
  • Middle School History: The American Revolution; Liberty! 
  • Literature: The Hobbit; There and Back Again for Middle School 
  • Literature: The Hobbit; There and Back Again for High School 
  • Literature: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings for Middle School 
  • Literature: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings for High School 
  • Math: Algebra 2, Part One 
  • Math: Geometry, Part One 
  • Logic II; Advanced Formal Logic 
  • Thomistic Christian Philosophy: An Overview 
  • Health, Fitness, and Wellness for Middle School Students 
  • Environmental Science 
  • Musculoskeletal System and Nervous System (Human Biology in the Catholic Tradition) 
  • Apologetics: Defending the Bible in a Modern World 
  • Middle School Writing II: Essays and Papers 
  • Advanced High School Writing; Rhetoric, Figures of Speech, Essays, & Papers 
  • Characters and Dialogue (Write Your Own Book Fiction Writing Series) 
  • Theme, Style, and Point of View (Write Your Own Book Fiction Writing Series) 
  • Conflict and Creating the Breakout Novel (Write Your Own Book Fiction Writing Series) 
Next semester we will be adding another 21 brand new titles for you and your family.