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Friday, December 8, 2017

7+ Great Gift Ideas for Dad

By Maureen Wittmann

I've posted a few items recently on gift ideas for Mom. But what about Dad? We can't forget him! Here are some fun ideas for the Catholic homeschool man in your life. Nix that. Here are some fun ideas for all the boys and men in your life ...

These are some manly man rosaries. They're definitely not made for girly girls. I've bought a few of these myself as gifts and they are everything they promise to be: high quality and rugged. Visit the website to see the wide variety of offerings, including some sweet rugged pendants and pocket saints in addtion to paracord & WWI rosaries, chaplets, and compact rosaries.

This is my favorite all-time coffee. It's also a nice way to support a community of Carmelite monks living in Wyoming. You can be guaranteed your coffee is not only roasted with expertise, but also with a prayer and with love. Mystic Monk also sells tea and coffee mugs. For Christmas, check out the Jingle Bell and Christmas blends.

For all things related to G. K. Chesterton -- mostly his books. It's hard to recommend which book to gift as they're all excellent. I suggest browsing and seeing what piques your interest. You will also find miscellaneous gift items in the ACS store. The best gift from ACS is a membership in the Society, which includes a subscription to the print magazine Gilbert! Yes, there are still print magazines around, and this is one you'll look forward to finding in your mailbox.

Okay, I usually equate Holy Heroes with great items for my young children. However, they have a lot more than that in their catalog. A few ideas for you ... A holy water flask and keychain You never know when you'll need holy water, whether for an evening blessing or a nightmare soothing. You can also get a companion book by Fr Theiler about holy water its uses to go with either the flask or keychain or get this set of books, which are inspiring and instructive.

Yes, the awesome blog, The Art of Manliness, also has a store. There are all kinds of great items here from manly shaving kits to T-shirts to Zippo lighters to mugs to a whole line of books and more. There's even an Art of Manliness podcast. You can sign up HERE.

And, if you're looking for books for your guy, check out 100 Books Every Man Should Read (includes convenient links to ordering information) from the Art of Manliness blog.

I haven't ordered anything from this site ... yet. It's fun just checking out all the different crates from home brewing to weightlifting (pictured) to jerky and so much more. And the prices aren't as hefty as I had expected. From their About Us page, "We believe men deserve better gifts. Gifts that stir a primal craze of chest bumps and cheers, not polite half-smiles. We believe gifts should be just as exciting to give as they are to receive; the gifts of water cooler legend."

If the man in your life loves movies, here's a list of "100 Best Catholic Films for Christmas." You will have to do some searching to find ordering information, but it'll be worth it.

We hope you'll find this list inspiring and helpful as you seek out just the right gift for the men in your life, young and old. Please let us know your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Top-Ten Stocking Stuffers for the Homeschool Mom

Remembering Mom Christmas Morning

This is a top-ten list just for the husbands and children of homeschool mothers. If your family is like mine, Christmas morning begins with the discovery of filled-to-the-brim stockings in front of the hearth, left by St. Nicholas. Well, all are filled to the brim ... except for Mom's stocking. After all, she's the one who usually handles the bulk of the Christmas shopping.

Here are some simple, inexpensive ideas for you to help make Mom's Christmas morning a little more special. Coordinate with St. Nick to include some of these stocking stuffers just for her ...

(Need gift ideas for under the tree? Go here: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Homeschool Moms)

  1. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
  2. School supplies: Sharpies, gel pens, post-it notes, highlighters, and/or memory stick.
  3. Gift cards! One for take-out, giving her a kitchen-free night. Or one for the movies if that's her thing. Or, how about a spa day?!
  4. Homemade coupon for a night alone, sans kids, for lesson planning or whatever she wants to do (alone!). Or coupons for extra help with chores.
  5. Chocolate. Oh wait, I already listed that. Oh well, give her more chocolate.
  6. Her favorate lotion or cologne. Or scented candle (small enough to fit into a stocking.)
  7. Handwritten note: "Why my mom is special to me", "Top-ten reasons my mom is awesome", or "Why I'm still madly in love with my wife(!)".
  8. Special Christmas ornament. It can be handmade or store bought. However, if it's store-bought, make sure it has special meaning for Mom.
  9. On online membership to Amazon Prime, Audible, Netflix, or Hulu
  10. A card with your commitment to pray for your mom. Slide in a prayer card or medal with the written promise.
The gifts don't need to be perfect. It really is the thought that counts. It's special to have something to open Christmas morning. All these little things will add up to a lot in your mom's heart. 

Let us know your ideas for stuffing Mom's Christmas stocking in the comments!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

16 Easy Chapter Books to Encourage Emerging Readers

by Maureen Wittmann

I've written a few booklists recently that went viral. Booklists of read alouds for young boys and girls. But what about books children can read on their own? Chapter books that make them feel a little more grown up?

Those of you who know me, know I have a special love for picture books. I believe they have great value and they should not be put aside even when our little children become big children. However, many picture books are created to be read by parents, not grade school children themselves. Today, let's focus on some easy books that our emerging readers can hold in their hands and feel confident. Let them read aloud to you for a change.

Make sure to mix it up -- hard books interspersed with easier books. The hard books will challenge them and the easy books will give them confidence. End any lesson with the easy book so that your child finishes feeling upbeat about reading.

Start with phonetic readers (first three on the list below) as they will tie into your phonics / phoneme lessons. Only follow with easy chapter books after your child has a solid foundation of reading skill. This is because you don't want to train them to be "sight readers". If their books include too many words they can't yet sound out, you could end up discouraging them instead of encouraging them.

Many of the books on this list can be found easily at the public library. When picking your books from the library shelf, check out similar titles. Most of these books are just one of a series -- see what else is in the library from a favorite series. This way your child can actively choose books to read on her own, and will take a more active (and fun!) role in her education.

Some of these are fairly long and your child may only read a portion of the book at each sitting. Don't go too long if your child is struggling. Get a special bookmark to save your child's place. This is good practice for future reading. (PS I would not buy these as digital books as the illustrations may not be included or may be of lower quality.)

If you click on the book titles below, they will take you to reviews and order information. (Some contain affiliate links.) If you end up purchasing online through these links, check the ordering pages for "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" or check out other books by the same author. This way you can discover even more book ideas for your child.
PS If you're looking for a good reading program, especially if you have a struggling reader, I highly recommend True North Reading
We'll start with a few, simple phonetic readers and then move to easy chapter books, which are listed in order of difficulty.


Bob Books by Bobbie Maslen [Scholastic Books]
You don't get more basic than Bob Books. They are perfect (IMO) for children just learning how to read. These were especially helpful for my struggling readers as they are so very simple.

Little Stories for Little Folks by Nancy Nicholson [Catholic Heritage Curricula]
I'm a CHC and Nancy Nicholson fan. Stories are printed on 8½"x11" sheets your child can fold into little booklets. I would reward my child by letting him color the booklet once he mastered reading it. Note: It appears that you can no longer purchase just the readers and have to buy the whole phonics program.

Little Angel Readers by Linda Bromeyer [Stone Tablet Press]
These are personal favorites of mine. They are very colorful and faith-filled. I used Little Angel Readers with all seven of my children and plan to pass them down to my grandchildren.

Hop on Pop (I Can Read It All By Myself) by Dr. Seuss, 72 p.
Dr. Seuss's first published book, The Cat in the Hat, like Hop on Pop, was a beginning reader, designed to be read by the child, not the parent. It was one solution to the ever-boring Dick and Jane books. They were intended to promote the "Look-Say" method of reading. I'm no a fan of look-say, but Hop on PopThe Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, One Fish Two Fish ... and Seuss's other beginning readers still have a place on my shelf.

Go, Dog. Go! (I Can Read It All By Myself, Beginner Books) by P.D. Eastman, 72 p.
I still remember reading this and Are You My Mother as a child. They were my favorite books and P. D. Eastman probably played a part in my love of the written word. Published in 1961 it still plays well today. Other Eastman titles include Big Dog Little Dog, The Best Nest, and Flap Your Wings.

Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail (I Can Read Level 1) by James Horvath, 32 p.
Cute little chapter book for your animal lover or LEGO builder.

I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith, 36 p.
This one is illustrated by P. D. Eastman, though not authored by him. It's a fun rhyming book that also covers the importance of vocabulary and learning new things.

Henry And Mudge First Book by Cynthia Rylant, 40 p.
Part of the Ready to Read series and first in Rylant's Henry and Mudge series. Sweet story about a boy and his dog.

Kate Skates (Penguin Young Readers Level 2) by Jane O'Connor, 32 p.
If you're a Wittmann, you skate. So, this was one of the first easy chapter books assigned to my children in grade school.

Adventures of Frog and Toad (I Can Read Series) by Arnold Lobel, 76 p.
A collection of stories about best friends. A classic that's been around almost 50 years.

Adventures of Little Bear (An I Can Read Book) by Else Holmelund Minaret, 160 p.
This is a collection of three Little Bear stories. This was a definite favorite when my children were little. If you're a fan of the TV show, it's a must to own.

Adventures of Amelia Bedelia (I Can Read Series) by Peggy Parish, 64 p.
I still laugh every time I think of Amelia Bedelia. These easy chapter books are simply a hoot. Amelia is silly and fun. And, boy, can she make a great pie!

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, 80 p.
This is the story of "the world's greatest detective". It's a fun introduction to mystery stories for grade school children. Today Nate. Tomorrow Father Brown.

A Bargain For Francis (I Can Read Level 2) by Russell Hoban, 64 p.
A sweet little story about what it means to be a friend, a real friend.

Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Step into Reading, Step 3) by Shirley Raye Redmond, 48 p.
A fun book that combines American history with reading practice. Other American history titles in this series, and at Level 3, we enjoyed are Abe Lincoln's Hat and Sam the Minute Man.

Greg's Microscope (I Can Read Level 3) by Millicent E. Selsam, 64 p.
I originally bought this book for no other reason than my emerging reader at the time is named Greg. However, it turned out to be a nice book to supplement our science lessons in addition to providing reading practice. 

So, there you have it. These are just the tip of the iceberg -- please share your favorites in the comments below.

A side note on audiobooks: I'm a big fan of audiobooks. However, I would not invest the time or money in audio editions of these books unless you'd like your child to listen while they read the physical book. The suggested books here do not bring great literary value to the table. They are simply useful for reading practice. Personally, I save my audio budget (or time borrowing from the library) for Narnia and Middle Earth.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Advent and Christmas Read Alouds for the Whole Family

15 Advent and Christmas Read Alouds for the Whole Family
by Maureen Wittmann

The start of Advent is just days away -- time to get to the library and grab some books to enjoy as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I've put together a list of favorite Advent and Christmas books to help you and yours celebrate the season through read-aloud time.

The key to a good family read-aloud book is its ability to appeal to a range of ages. Everyone should look forward to Family Reading Time, from the five-year old to the fifteen-year old to the fifty-year old. It can be tricky finding good books that meet the criteria of all those age groups, but it can be done. Following are just a few ideas for you.

Let's start with chapter books. I followed with a classic short story and ended with a few picture books that can still be enjoyed by everyone. Or, better yet, have your teens can read them to your littles. (Note: the book title links are affiliate links.) I encourage you to share your favorites in the comments.

A Merry Christmas: And Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott (160 p.)
A lovely nineteenth-century collection of Christmas stories from the Little Women author. A terrific choice for a multiple-aged reading.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (128 p.)
Tolkien wrote a series of Father Christmas letters to his children over the years and now we get to enjoy them too. Make sure to have Christmas music playing in the background as you read this one.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (120 p.)
If you haven't picked up A Christmas Carol since childhood you really should give it a consider. You'll be amazed at how well it rolls off the tongue. Dickens had a good sense of humor, which makes it fun to read as well.

A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder (144 p.)
This book takes all the Christmas stories from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series and puts them into one book. If you already own the full series, you can pull out the Christmas stories yourself. Though this would be a great gift for someone who hasn't been introduced yet to Little House.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (128 p.)
A humorous, yet heartwarming, story of a Christmas pageant almost gone wrong. I know a number of families who have an annual tradition of reading this aloud during family time.

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle (56 p.)
A sweet Advent story from L'Engle's Austin family series. Each day of December is special and full of preparation for the Austin family. But this year, there's something different going on ...

Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (40 p.)
A classic tale of giving and receiving. I remember being profoundly affected by this story as a child and love sharing it with my own children today.

The Huron Carol by Saint Jean de Brebeuf (32 p.)
The Huron Carol was written by St. Jean de Bregeuf, Jesuit missionary to the Huron and North American martyr. It is known as the first American Christmas carol and was originally written in the Huron language.

The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan (32 p.)
One of my favorite Christmas picture books, this is the story of a Russian village, a deserted church, and an icon of St. Nicholas. It is a story of hope.

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola (32 p.)
From the publisher, "In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside."

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola (32 p.)
The beautiful Hispanic Christmas tradition of Las Posadas — Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in preparation for Jesus's birth.

Little House Picture Book: Christmas in the Big Woods  (32 p.)
Taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, this is a delightful picture book with lovely illustrations. We own the full set of these books, but then we have a daughter named after Wilder.

Bambinelli Sunday by Amy Welborn (32 p.)
Bambinelli Sunday is an Italian Advent tradition were the faithful bring the Christ Child from their Nativity to the Pope to be blessed during the noon Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent. This is a sweet story of a boy and the faith lessons he learns from his grandfather.

Lucia Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde (32 p.)
A well-written and nicely illustrated biography of St. Lucy, whose feast day falls on December 13th. It's a great day to learn about St. Lucy, light some candles, and enjoy some St. Lucy bread.

For more book suggestions, plus ideas to integrate picture books into the celebration of Christmas, check out Christmas Mosaic, An Illustrated Book Study for Advent and Christmas by Cay Gibson [Hillside Education].

Let us know your favorite Advent and Christmas books in the comments!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Top-10 Videos: History in a Minute

One year ago, Mr. Phillip Campbell had a fun idea, opened his iPhone, and started to film. And, as they say, the rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is History in a Minute.

It's been a fun year and we plan to keep going for many years to come. To celebrate this anniversary, we'd like to share the top-ten most viewed History in a Minute videos

10. Did you know that Starlings are not native to the United States? Or the role Shakespeare played in bringing them to the Western Hemisphere?

The History of Starlings in America

9. Did you ever wonder how the donkey came to represent the Democrat Party?

The History of the Donkey and Democrats

8. Do you know the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the Nativity?

The History of Nativity Scenes

7. The saint who was visited by St. Michael the Archangel (who drilled a hole in the monk's skull -- really!) ...

The History of St. Aubert

6. Just in time for Advent ...

The History of Veni Veni Emmanual

5. Curly-toed shoes, the baggy pants of the Middle Ages ...

The History of Curly-Toed Shoes (yes, that's a thing) ...

4. For the war buffs in the house ...

The First Recorded Battle in History

3. Mr. Campbell's favorite beverage in the whole world ...

The History of Dr. Pepper

2. If you're a Phineas & Ferb fan or an Alexander the Great fan, you may know this story ...

The Legend of the Gordian Knot

1. And the number one History in a Minute video is ... (drum roll please) ...

The History of Pugs

Let us know what topics you'd like to see us cover over the next year. And, if you'd like to check out all of the other History in a Minute videos, subscribe to our channel HERE

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Read Aloud: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

This is the “how to do it” part of Maureen Wittmann’s three-part series on reading aloud. The other two parts can be read here: The Joy of Reading Aloud and The Why of Reading Aloud. Also see The Ultimate Read List of Read Aloud BooksNote: Some hyperlinks in this article contain affiliate links.


by Maureen Wittmann

It sounds so easy: Spend ten to fifteen minutes a day reading to your children and change their lives drastically for the better. But, how do we go about it exactly? What if I’m a terrible reader? Or I’m busy with my nursing baby and toddlers underfoot? How do I pick the right books? Do audiobooks count? The answers to these questions and more …

The Basics
The first step in reading aloud to your children is to make sure you have good lighting. There’s nothing like strained eyes to ruin reading time. Good lighting may make the difference in whether or not reading is a success in your home. The experts say that you should at least have a 100-watt light (or equivalent) bulb in your reading lamp.

What Age Do I Start … Or Quit?
Start as early as you can and don’t stop when they get to be teens.

Babies are easy. Toddlers may want to grab the book. In that case, read while they eat in the high chair. Two of the greatest pleasures in life are eating and reading, right? So, why not combine the two? Give them chunky and plastic books that they can hold on to, that they can manhandle and taste with no worries about the books being destroyed.

You’ll be asked to read picture books over and over again, so make sure you choose books you like. Reading the same Barney book 5 times a day may make you little crazy.

Start with rhymes, comic books, and simple series (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children). Move up from there.

Gather the Kids
Recognize that all children learn differently. I have a son who, when he was a little guy, would play LEGOs while I read. At first, I tried to put a stop to it and make him focus on me. However, I soon realized he retained the story better when his hands were busy. This is called kinesthetic learning. I have a friend with a daughter who knits during read-aloud time. If works, don't hesitate to encourage it.

Make sure you and the children are comfortable. This may mean the baby is in the high chair and the toddler is playing LEGOs. But it may also mean that children are cuddled up next to you in a big comfy chair or on the sofa.

It may also mean reading at the kitchen table during lunch. I have a girlfriend who shared the sweetest picture. It was her kitchen table after she asked her children to set the table for lunch. They all had plates and utensils at their places and at her place there was a book. It was clear what they expected from her!

If it’s naptime or bedtime, it may mean the bedroom. And, once littles are asleep you can tend to the older children’s reading needs. Or, perhaps your own reading. Find what works for your family.

Most importantly, remember that reading time is not goof-off time. It is quality, education time.

Setting the Stage
Turn off the phone, TV, and other distractions. Put away the tablet, the computer, and all electronics. And anything else that might provide a distraction.

Take good care of your voice. Have a glass of water close by. I have acid reflux, which so damaged my voice at one point that I couldn’t read aloud to my children for several months. Take good care of yourself.

When you sit down to read, make sure to start with the author’s name and the illustrator’s name if applicable. This little exercise will help you and your children discern good and bad authors over time.

Stop as you read and ask open-ended questions.
Was that character’s action good or evil?
What do you think will happen next?
Why did he do that?
Has anything like that happened to you before?
In the same vein, allow questions from your children. Stop and answer.

How to Read Aloud
Now, what about the HOW? Let's talk about technique and how to go from mundane to animated. Again, your child will likely enjoy Read Aloud Time, no matter your skill level. However, why not step up your game. Homeschool Bonus Points if you teach these skills to your children and get them reading aloud to you!

Start by using expressive language. When my older children were little children, we used to visit our local bookstore for “story hour” each week. The young man who read to the children was full of life. He didn’t just read, he brought the stories to life. He used voices, he waved his hands, he danced, he sang, he made faces. It was so FUN!

The bookstore storyteller inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone. I know it feels silly to act out stories like that, but your children will love it! They’ll love silly.

Have fun with voices. Imagine how a character sounds and give it a try. For example, I imagine Cinderella with a high-pitched, sweet, loving voice and the evil witch would have a scratchy, low, evil voice. Don't be afraid to try different voices. If you blow it, you and the kids will have a great laugh. Either way, it's all about the fun of trying.

Don’t worry about mistakes. Your children don’t care if you’re the most mundane reader in the world. They love being with you and cuddling with you. But why not make it fun?! Plus you’ll get better as time goes on. In due time, you’ll get into a natural rhythm.

Find poetry to read. Poetry is best read aloud, not read silently. It is like verbal music to children's ears. Start with nursery rhymes when they’re little and move to Robert Lewis Stevenson when they’re bigger. And when they’re really big, read Southwell and Chesterton.

Look for onomatopoeia words. These are words that sound like their meaning. A few obvious ones are: Roar, Meow, Chirp, Hiccup, Burp, Beep, Bang, Moo, Cuckoo. You see them a lot in comic books (think Batman): Wham! Pow! Bam!

Read words to accentuate their meaning:
That was a Loooong road.
The firecrackers were LOUD.
She was quiet as a mouse
As you read, accentuate the verbs (action words). For example:
He RAN up the stairs.
She JUMPED the fence.
He HOPPED into the rail car.
Make sure to check your pace as you read. This sets the tone for your story. It can create calm or excitement. Laura and Mary roaming in the wildflowers requires a slow pace. The Hardy Boys chasing criminals requires a fast pace.

Use pauses to bring home a point. Stop and take a breath when something significant has happened in the story, as to ponder the event. And, repeat important sentences. If it’s the heart of the story, if the line needs to be sold, say it again. Say it again.

Use a soft voice to grab their attention. If you start to lose their attention or just want to change things up, soften your voice. As the saying goes, “If you want someone’s attention, whisper.”

Articulate all the way to the period. Too often, we swallow our sentences. Don't mumble and don't hurry through a sentence. Take your time. Oftentimes, the meat of the sentence is at the end.

If time is running short, instead of hurrying through the story, stop and put the book aside. You can pick it up again the next day. Better to create some excitement and have something to look forward to the next day, than to rush through it.

Some books are made to be read aloud ... some are not. As I read Narnia the first time, I imagined C. S. Lewis reading aloud as he typed. It flowed easily off my tongue and was a joy to read. A Connecticut Yankee in King’s Arthur’s Court was the opposite experience. The Olde English was difficult for me to read. It was difficult for the children to understand. We could only get through two or three pages at each sitting. It was so painful, I finally put A Connecticut Yankee down and told the children that this was one they could read on their own when they got older.

Audio Books
Think Car Schooling. If you are the typical homeschooler, it is likely you are continually driving and to and from events. Listen to audiobooks as you drive. Once, on vacation, my family ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere in Canada. We were so engrossed in Little House On the Prairie that we forgot to stop and get gas! So, make sure your tank is full before you set off on an adventure.

Audiobooks can also help out Mom. When I struggled with the pronunciation of the characters in the d’Aulaire’s Greek Myths, I found a great audio of it at the library. Maybe your voice just needs a break or you're under the weather. It's okay to take advantage of technology now and then.

I've had parents ask if audiobooks are "cheating." No, there is nothing wrong with giving audiobooks to your children. In fact, I have a couple of sons who are more listeners than readers. They will listen to books on tape all day long but are not nearly as thrilled to read the written page. One of those sons is now a grown man. He listens to books each day during his long drive to work. So, don't discount audiobooks.

I am a huge Audible fan. I save books to my phone and then plug my phone into the car radio. You can also find free audiobooks at your public library.

*Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Inc. or its affiliates.
Teen Readers
As I've said all through this three-part series, do not stop reading aloud once your children learn to read themselves. And, especially don't stop once they get to be teenagers. However, that doesn't mean you can't pass the baton to them.

You can have older children read to littles while you make lunch. They can take turns with you reading aloud when a story is particularly exciting and no one wants to stop.

You can flip things upside down now and then by letting your little children read picture books to you just for fun.

Finally, think about volunteer opportunities. Whether you visit a retirement home or a children's hospital, everyone loves a good story. Read aloud outside your family too.

Story is important. Sharing stories with your children is important. I hope that I’ve not only inspired you to read to your children, young and old, but also shared a tip or two to help enhance the experience.

Finally, I encourage you to turn off the TV, turn on life, and open a book!

A few reading lists to get you started on choosing books:
48 Picture Books for the Well-Rounded Catholic Child
Read Alouds for 6- to 12-Year-Old Boys
Read Alouds for 8- to 10-Year-Old Girls
100+ Books for the Well-Rounded Teen
And, for the ultimate list ... Read Alouds for the Whole Family.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Video: Catholic Saints (History in a Minute)

History in a Minute Video Series
Catholic Saints

History is the accounting of everything mankind has accomplished throughout time. It is central to all of the other academic pursuits as it ties them together, including the subject of religion. Without God there is no history. He is, after all, the Creator.

In history studies, you can discuss the religious beliefs of specific eras and places. How are those beliefs similar or different from the culture we live in today? What impact do religious beliefs play in historical events (or today's events)?

Most importantly, as homeschoolers we can talk about how our children, as individuals, can impact history as children of God. A study of the saints shows us how even the most simple of human beings can change the course of history.

Saint stories are not mere stories to entertain. They are not mere myths to teach lessons to. The saints were real, historical persons who affected world events.

Therefore, Homeschool Connections video project, History in a Minute, often includes Catholic saints as topics. They are blended within other videos on such topics as man-made disasters, politics, and archeology.

Videos are posted every Tuesday. To keep up to date on future videos on the saints and many other historical topics, Subscribe Now.

St. Francis Assisi

St. Aubert

St. Arnold, Patron Saint of Beer

St. Drogo, Patron Saint of Coffee

St. Triduana of Scotland

St. Charles Borromeo

We hope you enjoyed these videos and that they are useful to your family and your homeschool. Let us know in the comments if you have suggestions for future History in a Minute topics.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Middle East Reading List for Catholic Students

The Middle East is not only an interesting study, it's an important study. We've put together a reading list for you that includes fiction and nonfiction for students of multiple ages.

Who is this list for?
Books are listed in order of difficulty, from upper-grade school to middle school to high school to adult. One idea for preschool and early grade school is to look for picture books at the library with fun facts or books that focus on the geography of the region. At the end of this reading list are some additional ideas for supplemental lessons.

As with any book list, parent discretion is advised. Not all books are appropriate for all ages or all students.

Click on the book title for reviews or purchasing information (May contain affiliate links). Another resource to read book reviews is Goodreads. And to find used books for the best price, try Book Finder ... 

The White Horse 
by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1942) [Bethlehem Books]
Part of the Sally Series, the story takes Sally to the Mediterranean Sea where she encounters Barbary Coast pirates, is taken captive, ends up in the Sultan's palace, and so much more. Sally is exposed to Islam and a way of life unknown to her before this adventure. Charming series that could be read aloud with younger children. 

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia)
Not about the Middle East, however, "it is reminiscent of classic stories set in the Middle East (such as the Arabian Nights)." Terrific read aloud for the family. You can never go wrong with Narnia.

Takes place in 13th-century Baghdad. A well-written novel introducing the reader to complex math puzzles in an interesting and fun way. Presents an opportunity to discuss Islam. Read this disclaimer first. (Can be downloaded free HERE.)

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights 
The mythical back story to this wide collection of stories (from Aladin to Ali Baba) begins with Shahryār, a Sasanian king. He discovers his brother's wife and also his own wife are both unfaithful. In his grief, he concludes all women are the same. Shahryār begins to marry a succession of women only to execute each one the next morning before she has a chance to dishonor her vows. That is until Scheherazade offers herself as a bride. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale but does not end it. The king, enthralled in the story, postpones her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins) a new one, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion of this tale, postpones her execution again. So it goes on for 1,001 nights. 

Suleiman the Magnificent: Sultan of the East by Harold Lamb (1951) [OOP]
Harold Lamb's fictionalized histories are usually very gripping and enjoyable stories. We are including three of his titles here. Suleiman the Magnificent is the story of the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. 

Tamerlane: Conqueror of the Earth by Harold Lamb (1955) [OOP]
Temur the Lame, who referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam" is a fascinating individual in 14th-century history. He was a blood thirsty world conqueror, perhaps second only to Genghis Kahn.
In addition to an intriguing story, the back of the book contains a wealth of material to help you continue your study into the subject. (Also available as an audio book.)

Swords from the Desert by Harold Lamb
Made up of four novellas originally published in Adventure magazine in the late 1920s, and three short stories published in Collier's magazine in the early 1930's. All immerse you into the culture of the Middle East. 

Angels in Iron
 by Nicholas Prata [Arx Publishing]
A favorite book, this is an engaging historical fiction that deals with numerous figures from the early Ottoman times, including Suleiman the Magnificent, Piali Pasha, and Dragut the Corsair. It's a well-researched story that also demonstrates all the character traits we'd like to see in ourselves and our children: courage, honor, selflessness, and more. (Rumor has it there may be a movie based on this novel in the distant future. I'm at least hoping for an audio book.)

Defenders of Christendom by James Fitzhenry 
A good book from the same perspective as Angels in Iron. It deals with the Christian heroes who resisted the Turks in an attempt to check their advances, including John Hunyadi the White Knight of Wallachia, Skanderbeg of Albania, Jean La Valette of the Knights of St. John, and others. 

The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis 
These three fictional books take place in Afghanistan during the rule of Taliban in the 1990's and told through the eyes of a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to survive the refugee camps. Hits on serious realities: War, starvation, refugee camps, maimed children (from land mines), and despair.

111 Questions on Islam by Samir Khalil Samir S.J. [Ignatius Press]
It is important in today's world for Americans to understand the history and culture of Islam. This book is in an easy-to-read, question and answer format.

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer
A detailed factual account of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the elected prime minister and the aftermath. A study into what brought about Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

This is the story of seven Trappist monks in Algeria who were kidnapped, imprisoned for two months, and beheaded by Islamic radicals in the 1990's. The book is a history of the Algerian monks and chronicles the relationship of the monks with their Muslim neighbors. The movie Of Gods and Men is based loosely on this story. Monks of Tibhirine is upper high school or adult level reading.

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson (2014)
A look at the Middle East arena during World War I. A fairly readable popular account of T. E. Lawrence, of his role in shaping the Middle East, and of missed opportunities that we are still paying for today. Parental discretion advised as it contains information about Turkish captors who sexually assaulted Lawrence. 

The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross (1979)
Excellent resource on the history of the Ottoman Empire, especially the circumstances surrounding its decline and disappearance after World War I. For the parent or advanced student who wants to go really deep. The author painstakingly researched this book, looking at all of the big issues: Economic, political, and social. 

British General Edwin Allenby was the first Christian general to capture Jerusalem since the Crusades. This book, written by an eyewitness of Allenby's exploits, gives a detailed account of the British Palestine campaign in World War I. Advanced readers only.

To watch ...

Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O'Toole (1962)
Epic historical drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, a British archaeologist who lived an extraordinary life. He was best known for his legendary war activities in the Middle East during World War I and for his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926).

Other resources:
Middle East: Map & Geography Information

Al Jazeera: Online English language version of the popular Middle Eastern TV station.

Visit a Mediterranean restaurant or create Middle East recipes at home.

Thank you Tony Schiavo of Arx Publishing, Phillip Campbell, Danielle Goodnight, and Susan Donovan for your suggestions for this list. This was not an easy book list to compile. There are so few non-Western works available. Please share any suggestions you have in the comments below.