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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:

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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Finding Math in Literature

Note: This article originally appeared at Visit the Catholic Mom website for many other articles to support you in your vocation as a wife and mother.

I majored in applied mathematics in college, yet it wasn’t until I became a homeschooling mother that I discovered math in literature. I’d like to help you to also discover how you can introduce living books into your homeschool and take a break from the drill, drill, drill.
Have you ever said to your children, “I hated math in school” or “Math was my worst subject”? I’m challenging you, right here, right now, to never say those words again.
Emotions are contagious. If your personal fear of math is evident to your children, they’ll likely take on the same fear. If you’d like your children to succeed in their math studies, then make the conscious decision to find the beauty in math yourself. Yes, it’s true: there is beauty to be found in mathematics.
Just as God is orderly, mathematics is orderly. There is beauty to be found in its orderliness. You can find it in nature, in music, and in art. Reading how the great proofs came to be or how mathematical discoveries were made can be very interesting. Reading biographies of the great mathematicians, again, can be quite interesting. Take it from me, mathematicians tend to be quirky, colorful people. It can be fun to discover the meaning of such things as: harmonograph, Fibonacci sequence, golden ratio, Möbius strip, and Weaire–Phelan structure.
Think of it as Math Appreciation. We study art and music appreciation. We share Monet with our children before embarking on art lessons in watercolors. We listen to Beethoven with our children before setting them down to piano lessons. There is no reason why we can’t do the same with math.
There is a lot of terrific, fun math literature out there to help you enter the world of Math Appreciation. Here is a free book list for you to start: Math Lit for All Ages. I also wrote a book called For the Love of Literature that includes a lot of great math titles. You should be able to find the book in your library or through inter-library loan. In fact, the library is a great resource in finding living math literature. Go to the children’s section and then find the 500’s in the Dewey Decimal System and start pulling books off the shelf.
I encourage you to read books to your children such as Sir Cumference and the First Round TableThe Man Who CountedThe Phantom Tollbooth, and so on. Also take some time to work number puzzles and do fun things like create codes. Perhaps, together, you and your children will come to appreciate math through living literature, and therefore be more successful in math studies.
Do you have a favorite living math book? If so, leave a comment and tell everyone about it.
Copyright 2015 Maureen Wittmann

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dad's Role in Your Homeschool

Note: This article originally appeared at Make sure to check out the Catholic Mom website for many other great articles to help you in your vocation as wife and mother.

“My wife runs our day-to-day homeschool; what should I be doing?” This is a question I hear many times over as I travel to homeschool conferences every spring and summer.
There are homeschools where Dad is the primary educator, but for this article we will be talking about homeschools where Mom is doing the bulk of the homeschooling.
When I first began homeschooling 20 years ago, I had grandiose visions of my husband coming home from work each evening and sitting down with our children (all perfectly tidy in matching outfits, of course) while I prepared a nutritious dinner in my dress, pumps, and pearls, and he would teach them about the great mysteries of life. I envisioned my husband teaching our children French and theology. I envisioned him sitting down with me on weekends to plan the children’s week, reading all the latest homeschool books with me, and chatting casually about Charlotte Mason, the Trivium, and more.
Reality set in pretty fast.
You see, my husband works two jobs so I can stay home full time. He is busy slaying dragons all day while I tend to the castle. There is no time in his schedule for formal French and theology studies with the children. He’s exhausted when he walks through the front door. He looks forward to, no, he deserves, to sit down, have a drink, and watch hockey. Debating various homeschool philosophies with me isn’t going to happen.
Yet, my husband does contribute to our homeschool in a significant way. He didn’t teach a formal theology course but he did pray with our children, he did take them to Holy Adoration on Saturday, and he makes sure we get to Mass on time every Sunday.
He doesn’t help me lay out weekly plans, but he did build bookshelves. And, honestly, the way to my homeschool heart is more bookshelves.
If you’re a dad and you can teach a formal course or two with your children, that is an amazing gift to give your children. I can’t begin to tell you the positive impact you will have. However, if you’re too busy to teach an actual course, don’t beat yourself up. There are other ways to help build up your family’s homeschool.
First, be a support system to your wife. On those days when she’s exasperated, don’t say “Just put them in school.” Instead, listen. Let her talk it out. Help her find solutions. Remind her of all the positive reasons you chose to homeschool. Remind her, she is a gift to you and your children.
Back your wife up on discipline issues. If possible, be available by phone if she needs to have you talk to a child. Remind your children that their mother is to be respected and obeyed.
Let the children work with you on household projects. For example, when you’re working on the car, let your children see what you’re doing and let them help. Yes, it takes longer when they help, but the long-term benefits are worth it.
Read aloud to your children. Just 10 minutes a day. Those 10 minutes will make all the difference in the world. Even the simple act of your children seeing you reading for your own enjoyment makes a difference.
Play sports with your children and go for walks. Not only will you receive the benefit of stronger physical health, you will be creating bonds with your children. Sports teach children leadership skills, teamwork, how to play fair, how to be a good winner or loser, and more.
Ask your children about their day while having dinner. Show an interest in their studies. This helps your wife a great deal as the teacher of your children. It demonstrates to her students that schoolwork is important to dad and should be important to them too.
Get the children out of the house now and then to give your wife alone time. Perhaps take the kids out for an ice cream on Saturday so your wife can plan the school week in peace.
Most importantly, demonstrate what it means to be a godly man. Pray with your children at bedtime and at meals. Talk about God in everyday conversation. Live the Gospel.
And, of course, build all the bookshelves your wife’s heart desires. Let me know in the comments below how Dad is involved in your homeschool.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Homeschool Moms

By Maureen Wittmann

Husbands and children, listen up. The homeschool mom in your life could use a little extra attention. No, she needs a lot of extra attention. Let's go out of our way to make her day special. Whether it's her birthday, wedding anniversary, Christmas, or "just because we love you day", get thinking about what you can do to brighten her life and let her know how much she means to you.

Following is a long, long list of ideas to get you started. Gifts range from free (scroll all the way down) to pricey. So no matter your budget you can do this. The only other thing you need is time and desire.

In choosing gifts for the Homeschool Mom in your life, mix it up a bit. First, choose something nice and personal. More than likely she needs to be refreshed. Next, throw in a cool homeschool-related gift. A gift that will make homeschooling more fun and easier. This is especially important if she's been feeling some burnout. Let's get that homeschool fire going again! Finally, a nice kitchen or homemaking gadget is often a good idea, choosing something that will save her time and energy.

Click on hyperlinks if you need ordering information or reviews.

Coffee - If the Homeschool Mom in your life loves coffee, run, don't walk, to Mystic Monk. This is great-tasting coffee and my personal favorite. You can also purchase coffee mugs, gift baskets, and more.
Quality Tea - If she's a tea lover instead of a coffee lover, then treat Mom to high-quality loose leaf tea. She may also appreciate a tea set, infuser, or tea tin to go with it.
Chocolate - You can't ever go wrong with chocolate. Remember this is a special gift, so skip the candy aisle at the grocery store and get high-quality chocolate for her. And warn the kids not to bug her to share with them. Just this one time, Mom gets to have something all to herself!
Wine / Liqueur - If she enjoys a nice glass of wine or liqueur now and then, treat her to the good stuff. And maybe even throw in a couple of matching glasses so she can share with the Homeschool Dad in her life.
Beautiful Catholic Journal or Planner - Get one that is not only functional but pretty. I know this is picky, but I like my planner to start the weeks on Sunday. It's also nice if it's filled with inspirational quotes, feast days, and Mass readings. The best ones I've seen are from

Spiritually-Uplifting Book - Something to raise her heart to heaven and refresh her soul. Titles such as:

A Novel - A book she can curl up with in bed and escape from the world for a little while. A few ideas for you:

Coloring Book - Yes, I said coloring book. It's the latest craze and with good reason. Coloring can relieve stress and provide a creative outlet. The Catholic Company has some very nice Catholic adult coloring books online. Don't forget to include good quality colored pencils.

Jewelry with Meaning - Jewelry is always a good gift. Here are some ideas for jewelry that has extra meaning for a mother:
  • Floating Locket - These are all the rage right now. I have one with the birthstones of my children and it is quite lovely.
  • Charm Bracelet - Collect charms over time that have a special connection to your family.
  • Religious Jewelry - Find something pretty that is also spiritually uplifting. Try searching Etsy for other hand crafted religious jewelry.
Hand Crafted Rosary - Does Mom have a special rosary? The kind that gets passed down through the generations? If not, this may be just the gift. There are a number of talented craftsmen out there who can create a high-quality rosary to order. Here are three to check out:

A Chapel Veil - You can find a wide selection of beautifully handmade (and to-order) veils at Veils by Lily. Lovely!

Scented Candles - Most moms enjoy scented candles. For some reason they bring a little peace after a busy homeschool day and help create a relaxing atmosphere. Especially if you combine it with praying your family rosary!


Fashionable Book Bag - This cute bag is a cross between personal gift and homeschool need. Mom can be fashionable while toting around books, tablet, diapers, and what have you.

Laptop Satchel - I love mine, which often doubles as my purse.

Wicker Baskets - Who doesn't love baskets?! They're a great way to keep things organized and neat while making our homes pretty. A large basket for collecting books and a small basket for remotes or game controls will make a nice gift.

Homeschool Equipment - These tend to be larger ticket items. However, they're also very good to own and make homeschooling easier on Mom.
  • Copier / Scanner - Number one necessity in the equipment category. Make sure the printer doubles as a scanner. This comes in handy if you take online classes as well as for record-keeping tasks. Make sure you purchase one that is compatible with your computer and can be hooked up wirelessly. 
  • Laminator - What homeschool mom doesn't covet her own laminating machine?!
  • Comb Binder - I've used my comb binder off and on over the years. I originally purchased it for business purposes but soon discovered it's pretty helpful for homeschooling too. I can create books from the children's writings and art work. This is great way to create keepsakes for your children or to give away as gifts to grandparents.
  • Electric Pencil Sharpener - Necessary time saver. 
  • Label Maker - This is on my own wish list. Click on the link and check out all the neat things you can do with this label maker.
Sling Book Rack - This is good for picture books. It looks nice and it's easy for little hands to remove and put away books. It may be delivered in pieces, so make sure you put it together for Mom first!

Storage Bins with Shelves - This is a cute way to store and keep track of toys and/or craft materials. And, it keeps things looking neat and tidy too.

Local Memberships - When my kids where all little, I loved our science museum and other memberships. It was a great way to get out of the house and keep learning alive (and fun!). Just a few ideas for you:
  • Museums
  • Zoo
  • Theme parks
  • YMCA or other family-friendly gym
Online Memberships:

Local Gift Cards - Maybe Mom loves the movies, has a favorite restaurant, or could use a day of pampering:
  • Movies
  • Restaurants
  • Spa Day

Homeschooling Gift Cards - Get her a gift card for her favorite curriculum provider:

Homeschool Books - Does she need a little encouragement in her homeschool? Here are just a few to get you started:

Classroom SuppliesCreate a gift basket with all those little supplies that we can never seem to find: sharpies; gel pens; highlighters; Post-It Notes; scissors; etc. (See "Wicker Basket" above.)

Cool Classroom Equipment - A quality microscope (plus slide set) is one of my prize possessions. It has come in pretty handy over the years - not just for me but for the co-ops and friends I've lent it out to when a need arose. I'd love to also own a top-notch telescope, and I'm certain your Homeschool Mom would too.

One-Year Subscription to Unlimited Access - This is a game changer that will free up Mom's time and give her a big hand up in the family homeschool: Unlimited Access to 273 recorded homeschool courses for grades six through twelve, all taught with a Catholic ethos. Woot!


Kitchen Appliances - Is there a kitchen appliance or gadget she's been wanting? Choose something she'd use often and that will save time in the kitchen.
  • Instant Pot - This single appliance has changed the way I prepare meals. I never thought I'd find something that I loved more than my Crock Pot, but I did, and this is it.
  • Crock Pot - Or Hamilton Beach or other slow cooker. This is a must-have in a homeschooling household. Set it on low in the morning and dinner is ready by the time you put the books and science experiments away. Just make sure you get one with a lid that can be latched down -- this makes taking it to the Homeschool Pot Luck easy peasy. 
  • Bread Maker - Another big time saver. Enjoy homemade bread with little effort. I would use mine to mix and prepare the dough but bake the final product in the oven. Just don't try gluten-free yeast bread in it. Most bread makers can't handle the heavy GF dough.
  • Kitchenaid Mixer - My husband bought my Kitchenaid for me for Christmas. It is quite pricey and he had to save for a number of years, but it was worth it. 
  • The NutraBullet - I use mine exclusively for smoothies. Super easy clean up and it holds up. I got mine for next to nothing at a Christmas sale so there are deals to be found if you shop around. 
  • Vitamix - Another pricey appliance we had to save up in order to buy. If you buy it refurbished, you can save a good amount.
Household Appliances - Again, emphasis on need and want. What will make her life easier?
  • Handheld vacuum - I don't know what it is about these things but put one in the hands of a child and a lot of vacuuming gets done. 
  • Spot remover - Homeschooling is hard on a house. Our children live and school in the same place, so a lot of messes happen! My sister swears by this Bissell and it's on my own wish list. 
  • The Shark - Light weight and works great.
Last but not least ... the best gifts are often the ones that are free, the ones made with your precious time, talent, and love.

Homemade Card - Every mom loves a homemade card. Get out the crayons and the card stock, and get creative.

Make Dinner and Do Housework - (This is my favorite gift ... in case my kids are reading this!) Do it without being asked and without making a fuss. Do it silently, when she's not even looking.

Bake Her Favorite Dessert - Not your favorite, her favorite. You may have to ask her what it is since it's likely she always makes your favorite dessert and not hers. Oh, and don't forget to clean up the kitchen when you're done baking.

Wash and Detail Her Car/Van - Inside and out! Do a meticulous job, vacuuming every crumb. It'll feel so good to get in the car next time and you'll be on her good list for a long time!

Lastly .... A Coupon Book - This is perhaps the very best gift Dad or children can give to that special Homeschool Mom in their life: Personalized Coupons (click for a free template). You can never fail with coupon books that will be exchanged for your time. You can have a coupon that exchanges for an hour of tutoring a struggling child, making dinner, taking the kids out while Mom plans the semester, back massage, foot rub, cleaning the bathroom, free hugs ... use your imagination. What does your mom/wife need most?!

If I've missed any brilliant ideas, let us all know in the comments.

NOTE: Some, but not all, links above are affiliate links.