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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Home Library Essentials for High School

Building Your Home Library: The Best Books for Catholic Students, Grades 9 to 12
by Maureen Wittmann

My recent post 48 Picture Books for the Well-Rounded Catholic Child was an internet hit. Today I'd like to share a similar list, but for high school children. In essence this list is: 100+ Books for the Well-Rounded Catholic Young Adult.

I tried to choose a wide variety of styles, eras, and genres for a well-rounded selection. I don't believe all of my family's personal books have to be religious in nature, but we do try to choose titles that point toward God in some way or at least give us the opportunity to discern the Good, True, and Beautiful in a positive way.

Whether you homeschool or not, building a home library that is both inviting to children and filled with exceptional books is a necessity. I suggest printing this list and keeping it close when visiting the library, attending your homeschool conference, or perusing used book sales online. If you have favorites I missed, write them on the print out. If there are titles you already own, cross them off. There may be even be suggestions here you don't like and believe do not belong on such a list -- cross those off too.

Filling your shelves with good books will bring peace to you, as you'll know your teen can walk up to that shelf, pull off almost any book, and find something that is enriching as well as enjoyable.

The inspiration for this list are the teens in the local homeschool high school book club that I lead. A few years ago they decided to read a book from a different genre each month. Many of the books they have considered and chosen are below.

Click on the book title (which may contain affiliate links) for ordering information and to read reviews. Some titles will have incidents of violence and worldly themes so, as always, review before giving to your child. You know your child best and what she can handle.

One of the things I love about having teenagers in my house is that they read interesting books. Long gone are the days of Barney books. I suggest setting aside a day and time to talk with your teen about what he is currently reading. In my homeschool, we have a special teen time at the local coffee shop. We have a Socratic discussion -- my job is only to ask questions. They can then pull the lessons from their books themselves.

Side note: A number of the selections below link to Ignatius Press' Critical Editions. These are quite excellent. For a student reading on his own, without the guidance of an instructor, it helps him see the Catholic worldview of the text.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad*
The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton*
Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran
Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
The Children of Men by P. D. James

Making Sense of Mary by Gary G Michuta*
Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel
The One-Minute Apologist by Dave Armstrong
Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life by Amy Wellborn

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth de Trevino
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols by Mike Aquilina and Lea Marie Ravotti
In the Footsteps of Popes: A Spirited Guide to the Treasures of the Vatican by Enrico Bruschini
Sister Wendy's Story of Painting by Sr. Wendy Beckett

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce
Life is a Blessing: A Biography of Jerome Lejuene by Clara Lejuene

Classic Fiction
Odyssey and Iliad by Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald)*
The Divine Comedy by Dante (Dorothy Sayers edition)*
Beowulf translated by Charles W. Kennedy*
Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer (Vincent Hopper's Interlinear Translation from Barron Press)*

Contemporary Fiction
Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo
Midnight Dancers by Regina Doman
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
John Paul 2 High series by Christian M. Frank

Anything by William Shakespeare*
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles*
A Doll's House by Ibsen

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Faith-Filled Fiction
The Spear by Louis de Wohl
Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis*
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien*
Tale of Manaeth by Phillip Campbell
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Historical Fiction
Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne*
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
Belisarius by Paolo Belzoni
Kirsten Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina
Dynamics of World History by Christopher Dawson
Seven Lies About Catholic History by Diane Moczar
The Politically Incorrect Guide To American History by Thomas E. Woods

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Dracula by Bram Stoker*
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe 
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly*

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth

Modern Fiction
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor*
Manalive by G. K. Chesterton
Huck Finn by Mark Twain

What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copeland
The Vintage Guide to Classical Music by Jan Swafford
Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz by John F. Szwed
Brightest and Best: Stories of Hymns by Fr. George Rutler

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
Father Brown Mysteries by G. K. Chesterton
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers*

The Confessions by Saint Augustine of Hippo (Ignatius Critical Edition)*
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (Ignatius Critical Edition)
Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching by Anthony Esolen
Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder, translated by Paulette Moller 

Doorways to Poetry by Louis Untermeyer
The Romantic Poets by Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge (edited by Joseph Pearce)
Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse by John Hollander*
Trees and Other Poems by Joyce Kilmer

The Catechism of the Catholic Church*
Cassell's Standard Latin Dictionary by D. P Simpson
World's Greatest Speeches edited by Lewis Copeland, Lawrence W. Lamm, and Stephen J. McKenna
Guinness World Records 2015 edited by Guinness World Records

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by JRR Tolkien*
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen*
The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*

The Savior of Science by Stanley Jaki
E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
Madame Curie: A Biography by Eve Curie
DK The Way Science Works by Robin Kerrod

Science Fiction
Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis*
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Sparrow: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Spiritual Life
The How-to Book of Catholic Devotions: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You by Mike Aquilina and Regis J. Flaherty
You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible by Peter Kreeft
Prove It! Prayer by Amy Welborn
Reflections on the Christian Life by Anthony Esolen

Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas by Peter Kreeft
Understanding The Scriptures: A Complete Course On Bible Study (The Didache Series) by Scott Hahn*
Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft
Catholic Teen Bible (Prove It)

Time Travel
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Sun Slower, Sun Faster by Meriol Trevor
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets for College Success by EB Conroy*
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler*

This is an extensive list, yet there are so many other great books I wanted to add. For now, this is a good place to start. I'm not suggesting you go out and buy all of these books today, but instead to build your library over time. If you enjoy eReaders, a good number of these books are in the public domain and therefore can be downloaded for free.

Let me know what books you would add (or remove) in the comments below.

* Indicates that Homeschool Connections (online Catholic classes) offers a literature course on this book.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sheltered Homeschoolers

Why Homeschoolers are Sheltered
By Kaitlyn Ohnimus

The Ohnimus Family
“Those kids are so sheltered.”

“At least I wasn’t sheltered.”

“I would never shelter my kids.”

Wait!!! When did being sheltered become such a bad thing? When did it become socially unacceptable to shelter our children? When did we start being grateful that we came from a background without shelter?

Yes, I know our conditioned and emotional response to those statements conjures images such as a teenage boy so socially awkward he isn’t sure if he should enter the store via the entrance or the exit because his parents never let him go in a store. Naturally, he has large baggy jeans and huge glasses that hide half his face. We imagine a pregnant woman with wild fuzzy hair, wearing a jean jumper trailed by eleven frumpy kids hiding behind her skirt sporting wide buggy eyes staring at the dangerous world they know they should never engage or encounter because “it’s bad.” To be honest I have never seen this in real life, but for some reason that’s what comes to mind when we hear the term sheltered.

Let’s examine the meaning of shelter. First, it is considered one of the three basic human physical needs to which every person, because of their inherent human dignity, has a right. A right that any just society is morally obligated to defend and provide. The other two needs are food and clothing. The specific obligation to provide these needs to children rests with the parents. When a parent fails to fulfill this obligation we call it neglect and abuse while dialing child protective services. To the same extent we acknowledge children have other needs parents must meet. Children require to be fed, clothed and yes even sheltered spiritually and emotionally. Children are fed and clothed spiritually and emotionally when they are given wisdom, education, logic, faith, and training in skills.

Despite what Hollywood and the Disney Channel portray, parents are wiser than their children, even their teenage children. This is why parents feed their children meat and vegetables when their children want candy and sweets. We know children do not have the knowledge nor the maturity to choose the best options, so we rely on parents to choose it for them. Likewise, children often want to play out in the cold longer than is good for them, forcing parents to call them in to get warm before their toes fall off. What kind of a mother, between the months of October and May, doesn’t ask if her child has hat, mittens, and coat in the car before she lets them drive away. As much as 17-year-old Billy rolls his eyes, when the car breaks down he’s grateful he listened to mom. Besides directing what the children eat or when they come in from the cold, parents provide these goods. It is their worry and their work that buys the food, pays the heating bill, and supplies the mortgage. Children simply cannot manage these tasks so they rely on their parents to provide good food, appropriate clothing, and a warm home.

In much the same way, it is a parent’s obligation and responsibility to provide emotional and spiritual shelter for their children. Like dietary choices parents have the life experience and the knowledge to know what is toxic and what will hurt their children. They understand what is too much of a good thing like sweets or TV and when more of something else in needed like vegetables or prayer and family time. They must ensure that their children are not exposed to evils they are too immature or young or naive to handle. Here I think more of a plant in a greenhouse. When the plant is too young and weak it needs to be in a warm, secure and controlled environment (aka sheltered) till it is strong and firm. Once it has been given this chance to grow strong it will be able to stand firm during winter months outdoors and bloom again each spring, but if such a plant is placed outdoors too early it will be destroyed immediately. Just like that plant my parents sheltered me. They used their wisdom to see that much of the media, that certain friends, that certain activities or groups were toxic and would hurt me. They raised me in a safe home where I knew I was loved, where I was allowed to believe in truth and beauty, and where I need not be afraid. They filled me with faith in God and made it the air of our home. So many young people are torn down, hurt, rejected, mocked and scorned in their places of formation and it wounds them deeply. I know this from listening to and sharing with these people.

As my maturity and wisdom would grow, my parents allowed me more freedom to make decisions often even letting me make decisions they knew were not the best so that I would learn from them. They often let me fall, but guess who picked me up. Because of this, I have learned trust. I don’t fear that I will be abandoned. I never felt that I was unable to question or challenge, but because of my trust in them I came to them with those questions and challenges. Now I look at the world and I see a place of good and evil. I know there are things in this world that I never wish to experience and because of the lessons I learned I choose to avoid them. Now that I have the maturity to face hurt and rejection it does not destroy me because I know I am loved and I trust those who love me. I have faith in the Lord and wisdom to trust His Church. I, like a little sapling, was sheltered while I was too weak to face the stormy blast on my own. Now I am able I stand like a tree in the middle of a field and sway but do not break as the storm winds blow.

The truth of the matter is that rather than the awkward picture we conjure, sheltered children are becoming well adjusted and psychologically healthy young adults. We are fast becoming leaders in our communities because we are not broken, because our foundation is strong.

My answer: “What’s so wrong with being sheltered?”

Kaitlyn Ohnimus is grateful to have studied at home for twelve wonderful years with the best teacher in the world, her mom. Kaitlyn and her husband Christian (son of Homeschool Connections' cofounder Maureen Wittmann) are both graduates of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. They recently welcomed their second baby. They also recently returned to Steubenville to raise their family and work for FUS as adjunct professors in nursing. Kaitlyn plans to homeschool her own children when the time comes.

This article originally appeared at The Porch.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Should I Keep Homeschooling?

Yes, I Still Plan to Homeschool Next Year
By Emily Crawford
The Crawford Family & Friends
It’s summer. Finally. I feel as if I have been counting down the days. Between school and all the busyness of life (or I should say my children’s lives), I really needed this break. I can finally collect my thoughts and look at this last year of homeschooling with perspective.

This year, it seems to me, has been a defining year for homeschooling for my family. You see, as my children have gotten older, my confidence about homeschooling has waned. Not because of curriculum or socialization. Not because of the day-to-day challenges with homeschooling (and there are many). No, the real reason was because many of our homeschooling friends are putting their kids in school, and the scary question, “Am I doing right by my kids?” has resurfaced. I know this is an ironic question, considering my husband is the head of a homeschool company. But, when I see everyone leaving for what seems like greener pastures the discerning question becomes, “Should I leave, too?”

As my heart began weighing these thoughts and I tried, albeit not well, to pray for clarity, I found myself leaning back on the reasons for why we decided to homeschool in the first place:  faith; family; and education.

The order we placed our reasons for homeschooling is significant. Education isn’t our primary reason. Family isn’t our primary reason. The primary reason we homeschool is our faith.

We live in a culture that claims to be Christian. Yet, the most fundamental things we believe as Catholics are being challenged daily, especially in our schools. Schools have become social experiments for political correctness, tolerance, and gender identity. When we squeezed out prayer to make the few feel respected, our teachers have increasingly lost their ability to reason about the true, the good, and the beautiful with their students. No longer can they point to God in all things. So what can they point to? What do I want them to point my children to?

Faith. The unequivocal truth in a loving God who made my children for a specific purpose. He has made them to love, know, and serve Him.  They are loved and valued because He created them and because He made them in His image and His likeness.  They have a Savior who has redeemed them. His Church is the ark that will carry them to Heaven. He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. He loves us deeply through His mother’s intercession. Life is valuable from the moment of conception to a natural death.  All that we have and all that we are and will be is because of Him.

I know they will never receive these truths in public schools. They should be able to receive Truth in Catholic schools. It seems even some of our Catholic schools have become battlegrounds for our children’s hearts and minds. And unfortunately, for many - including our family, Catholic schools are financially out of reach, especially if we choose to stay home with our children.

Our family is the second reason we have chosen to homeschool. Our culture and our education system have taken away the value of the family. I read an article this last winter by Julie Machado at Catholic Stand called “Homeschooling and Over-Schooling.”, which speaks to the primary goal of homeschooling – to get our children to Heaven. In the middle of the article Julie points to an unscripted speech by Pope St. John Paul II where he said, “everything exists for the family: different environments, societies, peoples, cultures, social life, economic life … not at the expense of the family.” This one line sums up how I feel. Everything should exist for the family, not at the expense of the family. But do our schools really think about the family when they promulgate alternative world views with questionable science? Do they encourage selflessness or self-preservation, egoism, and individualism?

With homeschooling, we experience what it means to be the domestic church. That means we learn to live in community; love the good, the bad, and the ugly; forgive; pray together, eat together, and play together; work together; learn to put others’ needs before our own and to depend on others strengths when are our weaknesses prevail. To put is simply, we are a family. Can modern schools teach this to our children?

Finally, the reason I homeschool is for education. With Common Core reinventing how our children should think and learn, standardized testing competing with real learning, and feelings and opinions educating minds away from reason and logic, then, homeschooling becomes the only viable option for my family.

I don’t blame the educators for these problems.  I blame the bureaucrats who think they know how to educate better than local schools and families.

I also don’t pretend to know it all or to have the ability to be everything for my children. I know I cannot recreate a Harvard education for my kids. However, that’s not my goal and it never has been. Thankfully, there are co-ops, tutors, DVDs, and online choices like Homeschool Connections that can help me with the overwhelming task of educating my kids.  And what’s even more reassuring, it’s their education. It runs at their level of mastery. It’s designed by me, a loving parent, who has her children's best interests in mind to guide them in their strengths and help them in their weaknesses. And, hopefully, it’s implemented in such a way, though imperfectly, that my children are given the tools and the desire to learn.

What’s the verdict? Despite all the friends who are leaving homeschooling to place their kids in school, when I lean on the three reasons of faith, family, and education, I know that the decision to homeschool is the right one for our family, and I can say with confidence, “Yes, we still plan on homeschooling next year.”

Emily Crawford is a homeschooling mom (starting her 10th year in the fall) of 5 great children and a proud wife to Walter Crawford, co-founder of Homeschool Connections. She is a Texas Aggie Catholic revert who is passionate about serving others in her parish and in her community and in living out the new evangelization in the domestic church. When she’s not teaching children, doing laundry, singing in the shower, and dreaming about decorating and the perfect household management system, she enjoys drinking coffee, reading a good book, and spending time with family and friends.