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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Summer Reading: Catholic Fiction

This is not a reading list for our students, but rather for their parents.

There has been a revival of sorts in Catholic fiction over the past few years. Yet, it's a genre we don't hear about too often. I can't tell you how many times I've had friends and family ask me to recommend a good contemporary novel that has a Catholic flavor. I love the delight in their eyes when I'm able to list nine or ten titles off the top of my head.

If you're looking for some good, fun reads for the summer I hope the following list will help get you started. All are contemporary fiction titles written by Catholic authors. While I've read a good deal of these myself, others were recommended by trusted sources (such as Joseph Pearce) and therefore are in my own to-read-this-summer pile.
          ~ Maureen

Click on the book title for ordering information and/or reviews. (Some are affiliate links.) They are in no particular order.

Adult Novels
Note: While written from a Catholic worldview, these are still adult in nature.  

A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press)

The Leaves are Falling by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press)

Death Panels by Michelle Buckman (Saint Benedict Press)

Rachel's Contrition by Michelle Buckman (Sophia Institute Press)

Bleeder by John J. Desjarlais (Chesterton Press)

Viper by John J. Desjarlais (Sophia Institute Press)

My Visit to Hell by Paul Thigpen (Realms)

The Book of Jotham by Arthur Powers (Tuscany Press)

Fatherless by Brian Gail (Gailforce Publishing)

Two Statues by Brian Kennelly (Saint Benedict Press)

Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England by Dena Hunt (Sophia Institute Press)

Rapunzel Let Down by Regina Doman (Chesterton Press)

The Letters of Magdalen Montague by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson (Kaufmann Publishing)

Death of a Liturgist by Lorraine V. Murray (Saint Benedict Press)

Young Adult Novels
Though written with teens in mind, these are enjoyable reads for parents as well.

Belisarius by Paolo Belzoni (Arx Publishing)

Tale of Manaeth by Phillip Campbell (Cruachan Hill Press)

Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran (Ignatius Press)

Adult Novels from Previous Centuries
Just a few in case you get through all the suggested books above.

Kirsten Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (Penguin Classics)

The Spear by Louis deWohl (Ignatius Press)

Dracula by Bram Stoker: Ignatius Critical Edition (Ignatius Press)

There are a lot of great novels out there and these are just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you'll share your favorites (and why!) in the comments.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why Should I Learn Latin

The Catholic homeschooling book Why Should I Learn This is available for purchase as a print book from Behold Publications (click to order) or as an eBook from Amazon (click to purchase).

Why Should I Learn Latin? 
by Emily Henry

What would you do if your Latin instructor said that she would personally  beat you up with her  own  baculum (stick) if you didn’t study enough? Finding myself in that very situation on the first day of classes during my freshman year of college, I panicked. Even though I knew my feisty professor wouldn’t really beat us up, she was nevertheless stern and scary. I was convinced that being forced to learn this so-called “dead language” was going to be my academic bane.

Then what happened? How did I begin with such a frightening introduction to Latin and then turn around to major in that “dead language”? All I can say is that when I received my first graded Latin quiz, I was stunned by the perfect score at the top of the page—and from there, I was hooked. I had found something I was good at and loved. Because of her spunky, passionate, and sometimes scary ways of teaching us, I soon grew to deeply respect my Latin professor. Not only did she inspire me to do my very best in this challenging subject, but also her work ethic and drive helped me to be successful in the future, in challenging classes.

There is something very rewarding about working hard at any task that challenges our traditional way of thinking. Latin is one of those academic subjects that can test even the brightest of students but, likewise, brings rewards that many of us don’t necessarily stop to consider when we hear the word, Latin.

Latin is known as an inflected language, meaning the forms of words change, based upon the way the words function in a given sentence. As a result, the Romans did not have the rigid word order that we are accustomed to in English. Most of the time, individuals cannot read a Latin sentence straight through (left to right, in the order in which the words are listed) and understand exactly what just happened and to whom. Rather, we must train ourselves to carefully walk through a step-by-step process of problem solving: We must hunt for the verb form, identify it, and then search for the corresponding subject form. This process helps to develop in us analytical, problem solving, and logic skills. Such skills are invaluable for other endeavors, academic and non-academic alike.

The most practical and common benefit we can experience as we study Latin is a deeper appreciation and understanding of English grammar, composition, and vocabulary. Studying Latin lifts us out of our native way of thinking about grammar and transports us into a foreign system of language that is more rigid, systematic, organized, and categorized than most modern languages. For example, if we can never seem to remember the meaning of an adverb, we soon find that Latin adverbs are clearly defined, easy to observe, and can help us to remember how adverbs function in an English sentence. We also find ourselves growing more and more comfortable with terms such as subject, verb, direct object, indirect object, adjective, participle, subjunctive, and relative clause.

Learning Latin teaches us how to identify parts of speech, instructs us to ask the right questions about each word in a given sentence, and aids us in discovering the most accurate translations of Latin sentences. As a result, some individuals may even find themselves more aware of their own writing style and how they speak, eventually making attempts to write and speak with better grammar. Some of my friends and I have often laughed at ourselves as we have become engrossed in discussions or debates about the proper usage of a demonstrative or a participle phrase. Perhaps we are just nerds, or perhaps there is something to this Latin thing and how it helps to transform the way that we think.

Since many modern English words are derived from a Latin word or form, studying Latin can aid in gaining a better understanding of English vocabulary. For example, what if we were unfamiliar with the meaning of the English word, procrastinate? Procrastinate contains two Latin words: pro and cras. These words mean for and tomorrow, respectively. Based upon our own understanding of the basic Latin words contained within it, we now have the tools to break down the meaning of the word. Can you imagine reading Shakespeare with a solid understanding of Latin? It has assisted me in unlocking the mysteries of many words!

Many people mistakenly believe that Latin is a dead language and, therefore, pointless to study. But it is alive and living in many modern languages to this day, including in Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, which are defined as Romance languages because they are offshoots of Latin.  And while English is not considered a Romance language, Latin is also alive in our language—not to mention in the global scientific and medical communities. Learning Latin can open the door to a better understanding of other Romance languages. In fact, many students in Germany are still required to study Latin today, which assists in learning Spanish and French.

As a Catholic, Latin has more significance than purely academic development, as it is the official language of the Church. In the fall of 2011, the Catholic Church released a newer, more accurate English translation of the Mass. While there are still debates as to whether this was a good thing, my point simply is that individuals who knew Latin had to work diligently for many years to reevaluate the way the English Mass had been spoken. As a result, knowledge of Latin has given us a more accurate interpretation of the prayers of the Mass.

While Latin can enhance our critical thinking skills, improve our understanding of language, aid us in studying multiple other languages, and is the official language of the Catholic Church, it may be surprising to discover that a college degree in Classical Studies can open the door to an eclectic range of career opportunities. An individual who majors in Classical Studies can begin a career path in many different fields, including law, business and industry, communications, social services, education, the arts, government departments, and medicine. The reasons why these different fields welcome Classical Studies majors vary. But the one thing common to all is the strong analytical and critical thinking skills developed by such a degree.

In many ways, Latin is underestimated. Although the language may be dead according to modern standards, it is alive within the Catholic Church and modern Romance languages. The ancient language provides us with the ability to think in an organized, categorical fashion, while honing our analytical skills. We develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of English grammar, vocabulary, and writing, which in turn assists us in how we communicate and write. Latin also provides us with the tools necessary to go back to original historical sources, in order to understand the speech and behavior of a particular time. The world of Latin is vast. I like to think of it as an extremely powerful key, because it literally unlocks the door to the past. Without Latin, we would not have an understanding of the basis for Western Civilization or Christianity—and we would not have access to countless works that would be otherwise meaningless to the modern world.

This article originally appeared in the book Why Should I Learn This

About the Author 
Emily Henry grew up in a small town in Michigan, where she and her two younger brothers were homeschooled. After graduating with a diploma from the Noah Webster Academy for homeschoolers, she attended Ave Maria College until the closure of its Michigan campus in the spring of 2006. From there, she transferred to Hillsdale College and completed her BA in Classical Studies and English. Currently, Emily enjoys life in North Carolina as a newlywed, blogger, and an online teacher for Homeschool Connections, where she offers a wide variety of online Latin courses that can be taken as live, interactive courses or as recorded, independent-learning courses. In the Fall 2016 semester, Emily will also begin teaching Greek Mythology.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Unlimited Homeschool Learning for Summer

Top Ten List
Using Unlimited Access for Summer Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Ask yourself, "What do I love?"
For example, do you get geeked about books? If so, choose a literature course on a book you love. Reread Romeo and Juliet as you watch Professor Pearce's lectures over a couple of weeks. Or Screwtape Letters, or Space Trilogy, or The Man Who Was Thursday. You can choose from over 40 literature courses.

3. Summer is a great time to hone your writing skills
Writing is a key skill for success in all other school subjects. Focusing on writing skills over summer will help you do better in history, literature, and more when fall arrives. Other courses that help you succeed in core subjects include: Note Taking Skills and How to Use Microsoft Word.

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

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

Bonus: Unlimited Access means just that!
You have unlimited access to over 250 courses for your entire family. Yes, it's true! You can't beat the price ($30 per month!!!) and you can't beat the convenience. Middle school, high school, and adult students can easily learn year round with this independent learning program. It can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. It's YOUR program.

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

Friday, April 1, 2016

Finishing Up the School Year and Filling in the Blanks

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

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

  • Christian Architecture through the Ages 
  • Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching
  • American Elections: Democracy in Action
  • Foundations of Christian Historiography
  • The Great Depression: 1929-1941
  • Understanding the Second Vatican Council
  • Church History: Trinitarian 
  • How to Be an Excellent Student
  • Job Search Skills
  • Personal Finance
  • Introduction to Literature: Why & How to Study Literature
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • How to Study Great Literature
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien and Fairy Stories
  • Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  • The Man Who was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
  • Chesterton: Man of Letters
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Beowulf and Christ
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Sophocles and Tragedy
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Redemptive Comedy of Flannery O'Connor
  • Introduction to Trigonometry
  • Fallacies and Paradoxes
  • Health, Fitness, and Wellness
  • Leadership and Interpersonal Communication
  • ACT/SAT Test Prep Series
  • Catholic Spiritual Writers
  • The Trinity Explained
  • The Mass Explained
  • Mastering MS Word I
  • Punctuation & Grammar
  • Excellent Sentences and Paragraphs
  • Excellent Paragraphs and Essays
  • Fiction Writing Series (Creative Writing)

These are great courses to take in the summer as well if you want to keep learning alive between the spring and fall semesters without too big of a commitment.