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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.