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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Homeschooling, Holidays, and Finding Peace

Heading into the Holidays with a Plan for Peace

Jenny Bales

You know the song, “Here Comes Santa Clause?” Well, I have a new version ...

Here comes overwhelm,
Here comes overwhelm,
Right down overwhelm lane!
Presents and travel and all the parties, pullin’ on our brain!
Friends are callin’, children bawlin’, all is busy and bright…
Take a deep breath and say your prayers, cause a plan can make it right!

Smiles and laughter aside, we all know that Thanksgiving leads to Advent leads to Christmas leads to New Year leads to Epiphany…and it all runs together, making us dizzy, tired, and overwhelmed!

How do we avoid feeling overwhelmed by the holiday extra—and find the joy in the season?

There’s a way! We plan for it. Right now!

Balance the Equation: Some Easy Ideas…

The holidays are mostly a lot of fun, but they’re notorious for adding to our schedules and to-do lists.

What can be done?

One way to keep our families balanced is this: whenever we add something for the holidays, make sure we subtract something that we usually do. Keep the equation balanced.

What We Did in October (Our Whole Schedule)
One of Those Things
One Holiday Thing


(3 Events) – (1 Event) + 1 New Event = Peace (Balance)

For example, during Advent, we can choose to add a daily Jesse Tree devotion but put away the catechism program—letting the Jesse Tree devotion be our religion lesson for the day. We usually need to add Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so we should probably say no to a play date that week.

It’s simple math. Don’t you love it?!

(Often simple is the best.)

Saying “No”…

Saying no can be difficult. But deep down, we all know that to avoid tipping the scale too far, we need to use that little word!

Fortunately, between Christmas and New Year’s, many outside-of-the-home activities take a break. But if we decide to add an Advent Penance Service and a co-op party before Christmas, you and I can bet that (to keep our lives peaceful and enjoyable) we’ll need to cross a few more things off of our calendar.

Again, skipping park day or missing a dance class isn’t going to hurt—and it’s surely going to help.

Give Yourself a “Peace Day”

One thing that works for me to keep life balanced and not overwhelmed is to have a Weekly Peace Day. Each week, I intentionally plan for a full day of peace—choosing one day each week to stay home the entire day.

Just one day at home can preserve the balance.

Modify Schoolwork

As homeschoolers, modifying our students’ schoolwork during the holiday season is normal and expected.

Simplifying our schoolwork allows room for holiday baking, field trips to the Nutcracker, and special celebratory times with friends and family. Yes—it’s totally okay to work on only “the 3 R’s” during December—reading, writing, and arithmetic. Simplifying the school schedule gives us the opportunity to learn from the fun holiday activities.

Put away the history timeline and pull out those cookie recipes! It’s okay!

Do Advent Well!

Above all, it’s essential for us to keep in mind that Advent is a time of preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. Planning ahead, placing the religious aspect of the season in the forefront, and focusing on Jesus’ birthday helps our faith-filled time of Advent to not get obliterated by shopping and eating!

Plan for—and focus on—one meaningful daily family activity during the Advent season. When we choose an Advent activity, we bring focus to our entire family.

In my family, some years we read aloud from a book like The Christmas Mystery by Jocelyn Gaardner. Some years, we do a Jesse Tree. Some years, we plan an Advent calendar of seasonal activities.

Whatever you and I choose, a singular, focused, and intentional activity can bring our family together—so we’re not “all over the place.” It’s easily accomplished, and it’s reasonable for our limited time.

Mom’s Spiritual Health

And don’t forget yourself! Choose one thing for you, Mom, to nourish your soul. Be intentional!

Since we can’t give others what we ourselves don’t already possess, it’s good and healthy to plan for something in our lives that’s special and spiritual during this season, too.

While getting dressed, listen to the readings of the day. Wake up a few minutes before the kids and spend some time with an Advent book of reflections. Splurge on a special Bible study book that you can read while sipping coffee or tea… or slip your Rosary into your pocket, and during nap or reading time, sit in your comfy chair and pray the Rosary.

One of my favorite things is to pray the Christmas Anticipation Prayer. It’s said 15 times a day from St. Andrew’s Feast Day, November 30, to Christmas Day. During this time, I have the prayer on the lock screen of my phone, as well as posted in front of my kitchen sink. With the pre-planned, intentional setup taken care of, I usually get to pray it 3-5 times in a row, at various times throughout my day…

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight,
In Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, 
[here mention your request]
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Whatever we choose, keep it simple and focused on Christ.

But Wait! I Can’t! This is too much!

Sometimes you and I are in a season of life where we simply cannot cross things off or add things.

Perhaps we feel like we barely survived October (with what already felt like the bare minimum, to keep our families going). Particularly during the holidays, when overwhelm and survival mode kicks in, it can help to find tips from others in order to simplify and keep ourselves balanced.

Here are a few practical ways I’ve been able to simplify in times of stress, especially during the holidays:

  • Don’t make your bed (and don’t make the kids make their beds).
  • Put on educational shows and cross off a school subject.
  • Don’t fold the laundry; a mountain of clean clothes is functional, as long as it has a place to live.
  • Use paper plates at some or all meals.
  • At parties, don’t stay the whole time; stay an hour, then go home! Everyone’s happy!
  • Once a week, simplify meals by eating snacks for dinner (at my home, we call it “sninner”!).
  • Avoid neglecting personal connections; one phone or video call is more valuable than a stack of Christmas cards.
  • Rely on grocery pick up and order gifts online; for reduced stress, stay out of the stores!

And there are many more helpful ideas “out there.” Be intentional, and find ways to simplify!

Thanksgiving—Advent—Christmas—New Year’s—Epiphany

The coming season is one of opportunity. As moms, because of the potential for overwhelm, we can view the months of November and December negatively. But the truth is—in this season, there is joy and beauty to be found!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, is God made man.

He is the reason for all the hustle and bustle!

And He wants us to find the joy and beauty in every moment.

When we keep the balance and do Advent well, we will find peace in our homes and peace in our hearts.

Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

FAQ: College Bound Students

FAQs for HS Juniors and Seniors Who are Planning to Go to College

When should I start visiting colleges to see which one is the right fit for me?
It is recommended to start college visits in the fall or spring of your junior year.

When do I apply for college?
You will want to check with each college, but typically, you can submit your application during
the summer before your senior year of HS.

Do I have to take the ACT or SAT?
For admission, most colleges require your official GPA and your ACT or SAT score. However, many
schools offer alternative admission options to the ACT or SAT. Many schools also accept the CLT
(Classical Learning Test).

What is the difference between a college and a university?
A college is typically a smaller institution that only offers undergraduate degrees, while a
university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many universities also offer PhD
programs. Some institutions prefer to maintain their title as “college” due to tradition, so there
are some colleges that offer graduate programs.

What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form completed to determine eligibility for
student financial aid. If a student chooses to submit the FAFSA, it is recommended to submit it
before confirming a college choice, as this will help colleges determine their financial aid

If you have any questions, feel free to email Vicky Tomaszycki at

Monday, November 4, 2019

Lonely? Five Simple Tips for Making New Friends as a Homeschooling Mom

Lonely?  Five Simple Tips for Making New Friends as a Homeschooling Mom

 Jenny Bales

Mamas, we need each other. We need other Catholic homeschooling mamas…because there is no one who understands the day-to-day reality of being a homeschooling mom than another homeschooling mom!

Women of Faith

When we find other Catholic women who are striving for holiness, too, we can enjoy a unique connection that strengthens us both. We can share the sacraments, the saints, the liturgical year, works of mercy—all the things that provide us with practical ways to follow the Gospel.

Other homeschooling moms best understand the opportunities and limitations of our days: the specific challenges of educating a child at home; having our children home all day, every day; and running the household on top of the homeschooling.

And let’s be honest.

Our husband may be our best friend—but he isn’t made to act as a girlfriend. As women, God created us with unique characteristics for woman-to-woman relationships. Expecting our husbands to fulfill all of our emotional needs is unrealistic and quite stressful for the husband-wife relationship.

We need other women.

Woman-to-Woman Care

Woman-to-woman friendships can refresh and restore us—helping us to carry on throughout our daily joys and struggles!

Regardless of whether we meet with kids for a playdate and simply spend time chatting together, or we arrange to get away for an evening at a coffee shop, or we take a girls’ weekend trip—the time we spend connecting with other women can bless us with laughter and love. The time leads us to a greater understanding of ourselves, our vocation, and our path to holiness.

When we hear about our friends’ unique journeys and how God works in their lives, our faith can grow.
When friends are in need, we can practice mercy and compassion.
When we need advice, friends bless us with reality checks and fresh perspectives.
And for those of us surrounded by children 24/7, adult conversation can save our sanity!

How do we find potential friends?

1. Go to where there are people.
We can’t make friends if we don’t know people!

To build new friendships, we have to intentionally seek out ways to be around other women, such as at homeschooling groups or a Bible study.

I know. You and I don’t have the time.

That’s why we purposefully strive to make the time.

Meeting others is often not as hard as we initially make it out to be. If we simply cross something off the to-do list and move the activity into the next week, we can make time to attend a gathering at our home church, or even drive to an event in the next town.

The goal is to find out where there will be other Catholic homeschooling women, put an event on the calendar, and go!

2. Reach out.
When arriving at an event, find at least one woman who looks like she might be a kindred spirit. Strike up a conversation. Ask questions.

Do they have kids with similar ages? Have they been homeschooling about as long as your family? What sports, activities, or favorite excursions do you have in common?

Try not to go home without connecting one-on-one with at least one person!

We all know that going to new events and meeting new people can be awkward. But we can be happier—and our families can be happier—when you and I make the effort to build community.

3. Follow up individually with the women you met.
Now’s the time: Get to know each other!

Send an email to your potential friend. Ask a question about something you discussed. Text and invite the new friend and her kids to a play date at a park. And if you’re really feeling brave, call to ask if the new friend would like to go for coffee sometime—gasp!—without kids.

If all of this sounds a bit like dating, well, it kind of is. Our society has moved away from living in community with those next door, and our extended families are more spread out than ever before. So you and I have to put in the work, to build relationships.

And that’s okay.

Making new friends might take a while. Relationships are not efficient. They take time and energy. Be patient. Keep reaching out.

(It’s really worth it.)

4. The next steps.
If the friendship seems to be “clicking,” then touch base once a week by text or in person. Ask about your new friend’s daily life.

How is your week going? 
How can I pray for you today? 
How do you handle [such-and-such]?

You can get together and ask more questions—questions that help you both to get to know each other better.

How did you meet your husband?
What do you love to teach your child/children?
Who has influenced your faith life?

Conversation is key to growing in intimacy with others.

If after chatting, you know that the new acquaintance isn’t a good fit—or if she simply doesn’t respond to your reaching out—then don’t worry. Simply and graciously try again with someone else.

It’s all good.

5. Pray for new friends.
Most importantly ask and trust the Lord to send friends—because He will answer those prayers.
It might take months. It might take years. But we can have faith that God will bless us with friends in His perfect timing.

In 20 years of marriage, I’ve lived in eight different cities. Finding new friends in those cities was a challenge. (If you’ve moved before, you know how stressful it can be to plug into a new community, right?)

Making the effort to make friends is tough. Setting aside time in our packed schedules is tough. When someone your reached out to chooses not to invest in a new relationship, accepting the feelings of rejection is tough.

Eventually, we can find the women to call true friends.

True friends are the ones with whom we can spend a week carrying on a conversation by text, because we can’t make a phone call work without kids screaming in the background.

True friends are the ones we can text at any hour, to pray with us when facing trials.

True friends are the ones who, even if we don’t talk for years, send messages that light up our worlds as we reconnect.

True friends are out there. You and I can go, reach out, follow up, and take the next steps.

We Are Made for Community

We were created to live in community, not isolation.

Jesus Christ didn’t send his followers back to their families to be alone. Some went out in pairs to evangelize. Others continued to meet together regularly in homes and, eventually, in churches.

Living our vocation in community with women in similar circumstances is life-giving and inspiring. We share our struggles. Our faith. Our laughter. Our tears.

We share our sometimes crazy, enormously busy, highly memorable lives together.

It’s truly worth it, right now, to reach out and find a new friend.

The blessings of friendship are abundant.

Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at

Friday, September 13, 2019

Enough: Do I Have What it Takes to Homeschool (You do)


Jenny Bales

Am I smart enough to homeschool? (I never had good grades in school…)

Am I qualified enough to homeschool? (I’m not a certified teacher…)

Am I patient enough to homeschool? (I lose my temper just about every day…)

Does any of this sound familiar?

Whether you’re considering homeschooling or have been homeschooling for many years, we all have doubts at one time or another about taking on the enormous responsibility of homeschooling a child.

At some point, almost every homeschooling mom wonders: Am I really the best person to be educating my children?

Yes, mama. You. Are. Enough.

You are smart enough, qualified enough, and patient enough—because His grace is enough!

God can work with anyone willing to cooperate with His grace. It doesn’t matter what our lives have looked like up to this point. If the Lord placed a calling on our hearts to homeschool our children (His children), then He will provide all we need to educate them according to His will.

In fact, you are the very best person to teach your child anything—because you love your child infinitely…and because God has prepared you for this task:
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. Ephesians 2:10

You are Capable Enough

We taught our child to speak, to listen, to crawl, and to walk—mostly, without even realizing it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that children “depend on parents, family members, and other caregivers as their first teachers to develop the right skills to become independent and lead healthy and successful lives.” 1

As a parent, we are our child’s first teacher.

Beyond the practical skills taught in the early years (such as holding a cup or dressing oneself), the British birth cohort’s 70-year studies have shown that significant predictors of future success in children include “talking to and listening to your kids…being emotionally warm…reading to them daily… [and] maintaining a regular bedtime.” 2

As parents, we do this from the time our child is born.

Having taught our child every skill and behavior from birth to age four, why do we believe that we can’t move on to teaching reading and writing and mathematics in Kindergarten?

You and I can do it!

You are Smart Enough

Numerous research studies prove that, overall, homeschoolers score higher on standardized tests than other students.

That’s a fact.

And check this out:

Studies also prove that in comparing homeschooled students to public or private schooled students, “there [is] no difference in the students' total reading, total math and total language scores based on the teacher certification status of their parents.” 3

Think about it.

There are “no significant statistical differences in academic achievement between those students taught by parents with less formal education and those students taught by parents with higher formal education.” 4

So whether you or I failed high school algebra or were held back a year in elementary school has no direct correlation to a child’s academic success.

You know why? Because homeschooling is about the intimate relationships we have with our children.

We know our child better than anyone else.
We are our child’s biggest cheerleader.
And we can give our child what is needed, to grow, learn, and become.

Our devotion to our child’s education—and our faith in God—are enough to help us make the best decisions for our homeschooling.

You are Good Enough

In her infinite wisdom, Holy Mother Church repeatedly affirms all of the above.

In Gravissimum Educationis, Pope Paul VI teaches, “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators [emphasis mine].” 5

By the very nature of God blessing us with the gift of children, He has designated us to be the primary teachers of our children.

And as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:10, our entire lives have prepared us for raising our children.

Whether we choose homeschooling or not, and whether we teach all subjects at home or outsource to online or in-person tutors, moms and dads are the ones given the authority by God to make educational decisions.

The Best Person for the Job

And not only are you and I good enough, but we’re also the very best person for the job!

If through prayer and discernment, we have chosen to homeschool right now, and we rely on God’s grace, then He will equip us, one day at a time, with all we need to give our child the education that he or she needs.

In fact, Paragraph 2223 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees:
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom…Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. 6

(But Not Perfect – And That’s Okay)

We all know that we’re not perfect. In giving that “good example,” we often fail. However, failure can still lead us to being the best for our children.
By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. 7
And this:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
It’s a given that you and I don’t have to be perfect to homeschool! (Thank goodness!)

Personal Testimony

Even with homeschooling families who have gone through significant struggles, I have seen God do amazing things. (Have you, too?)

And I’ve watched ordinary homeschooling families (if there is such a thing) raise the most incredible adults. (Have you seen it, too?)

In my own family, it’s beautiful to watch each of my children grow into who God created them to be—despite my daily failings!
It doesn’t take Superman or Superwoman to homeschool.
It takes ordinary men and women with faith in a super God who believes we can do it.

Mama, you are enough. 

God knows it. 

Do you?

Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is "whatever works" with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at

1. "Early Brain Development and Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. Jessica Stillman, “A 70-Year Study of 70,000 Children Says This Is the Secret to Raising Successful Kids,”, (accessed August 29, 2019).
3. Christopher Klicka, “Academic Statistics on Homeschooling,” Home School Legal Defense Association, (accessed August 28, 2019).
4. Ibid.
5. Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, The Holy See, (accessed August 28, 2019).
6. Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Holy See, (accessed August 28, 2019).
7. Ibid.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Homeschool Connections First Place i-Learn Awards for Best Online Academy

If You Want Your Homeschool Student to Learn from the Experts, Get What Parents All Over the US and World are Discovering,

And Save Lots of Money, Too…

Let Us Introduce You & Your Family to the First-Place Winner…
Hi, We’re Walter and Maureen –
And if you’re looking for the #1 online courses that received the top rating from thousands of homeschoolers who just finished voting for their favorites – look no further!
We’re so pleased to announce that Homeschool Connections was awarded First Place in the 2019 Practical Homeschooling i-Learn Awards for Online Academies.

"As I type this, I feel so joyful when I recall what a blessing it has been to have had access Homeschool Connections over the years! Your group has been a tremendously valuable resource for me as a teacher, and for my children in their studies."  ~ Jennifer D. (parent)

And that’s not all...Homeschool Connections was also awarded First Place for High School Core Curriculum and Second Place for Middle School Core Curriculum. In fact, this is the fourth year in a row that Homeschool Connections placed high in the i-Learn Awards – because, honestly, parents get excited about excellence and like to tell others about it.

"I am referring everyone to Homeschool Connections – the instructors are excellent! I am learning along with them. Makes me want to go back to school!"  ~ Rachel M. (parent)

So why do so many fellow homeschoolers find us to be a comfortable, convenient way to add a wealth of courses to their students’ education?

Here’s why: Excellent choice, top-tier experts, and crazy-good savings.

With over 400 “Unlimited Access” recorded online courses in all learning areas to choose from, teens learn with top-tier world experts – professionals (such as a NASA engineer and best-selling authors and speakers) and university-level professors (the best in the field). And these courses are here for you at the super affordable price of only $30 a month for all 400+ recorded courses.
You read that right – Unlimited Access to 400+ full courses is only $30 a month!

“Thank you so much for Homeschool Connections! There just isn't anything else like it. I'm always excited to see what new courses will be offered next!”  ~ Alison (high school student)
“I really look forward to the days I have classes with you!!! I love Homeschool Connections!! Thank you! I LOVE taking classes here!”  ~ Hannah (middle school student)

And if you want your student to learn in a LIVE online class with others, then choose from the nearly-200 LIVE courses meeting weekly online in the fall, spring, and summer semesters – again, in all key subject areas like math, science, writing, history, literature, and more. You can get one course or sculpt an entire schedule for your teen – you get to choose what works best for your family.

Because we believe that you, parents, are the best judge of your teen’s strengths and weaknesses – and you’re able to skillfully put together learning that exactly meets your teen’s needs – we trust that if you get an abundance of amazing choices for your teen, you’ll choose well. Here’s the page where you can look at the choices:

It’s important to know that we’re a faith-based Catholic company and students come from all over the nation and world to learn together here. Faith-filled families enjoy learning from the experts – because it’s easy to find the courses that are a perfect fit and learn in a safe, intelligent space that honors Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and is faithful to the Magisterium.

“We want to send a huge thank you to the wonderful staff and exceptional teachers my daughter was blessed to have guided her for the better part of the last three years at Homeschool Connections. Your class topics and content was a true Godsend for us!  Thank you for the gap you all filled so abundantly in my daughter's educational and spiritual growth!”  ~ Sarah B. (parent)
“We are a non-Catholic family using Homeschool Connections and chose HSC because I wanted my children to have a good Christian-centered on-line program…This program fits well into our Christian beliefs and my teens really enjoy the recorded courses!”  ~ Tonya H. (parent)

This is all about supporting you and your homeschooling. So we have dozens of free gifts for you at the website – including free recordings of webinars, materials downloads, and more. To start you off, here’s a free homeschool planner – simply click on this link to get it ...

Finally, if you ever have a question about a specific course, how Unlimited Access or a LIVE course works, or anything else to help your family and your teen, we’re here for you. You can get direct answers right away by emailing -- or call us toll free at 1-888-372-4757 and speak with someone directly.

Getting what you need is easy, and we’re here to help. God bless you and your homeschooling, and we hope to see you soon!



Walter Crawford & Maureen Wittmann
Homeschool Connections