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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

Friday, August 2, 2019

This School Year’s Golden Secret to Success

This School Year’s Golden Secret to Success

Jenny Bales

Is there one simple mom-to-mom secret that can make this homeschooling year the best one yet? Absolutely! But it may not be what you think… 

The pencils are sharpened. The maps are hung. The books are clean and all in a row.

Our plans are written (or, at least, outlined as much as can be, here at the beginning of the school year).

Our resolutions are strong.
This will be the year we finally teach poetry.
This will be the year we don’t lose our patience during math.
This will be the year we are consistent with Catechism lessons, so we can enjoy rich conversations around the dinner table about religion.
Our intentions are golden!

But we worry, too.
Will I be able to help my son catch up in writing?
Will my daughter find the friends she so desperately wants?
Will some life-changing event, like another pregnancy or a severe illness in the family, knock us all off course?
The answer is…yes, no, I don’t know…and—most importantly—this: It doesn’t matter.

Here’s what matters.

It matters that even when those sharp pencils are thrown in frustration, and even when our daughter sobs that her best friend betrays her, we love our children.

It matters that even when they grow independent and distant, we are still there for our teens in their hopes and heartaches.

It matters that even when our kids find life (and us) unfair, we listen and we guide.

Because homeschooling is love in action.

That’s why it’s so hard. It’s not ultimately about reading and writing. It’s about people.

Homeschooling is about doing the best we can to lead our beloved children to become who God created them to be. It includes science and math, yes. But those people—those children created in the image of God with futures full of hope—are what each and every day is all about.

As mothers, we love our children with passion and ferocity. We want the very best for them, and we do our best to prepare them for it. But in reality, only God knows what’s best for each and every child, and our plans may or may not be His plans.

So how do we recognize and follow His plans?


Expectations, Meet Reality (When Reality Hits)

If you’ve been homeschooling a while, you know that after two, four, six, eight weeks, the pencils are dull (and you can’t find the pencil sharpener). The morning sickness is all day long. And the mountains of laundry are taller than your husband.

Our plans often don’t match reality in any given moment.
When I began homeschooling, that truth was devastating. I didn’t know what in the world to do when the plan got interrupted. So I was exasperated… all the time, on a daily basis.

When this oh-so-common reality shock hits, how do we avoid getting off track?

It’s about expectations.

To go into a new school year bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is perfectly fine, really wonderful, and absolutely needed. What we want to be careful of—you, me, and every homeschooler out there—is to enter the year with realistic expectations that will neither frustrate us when plans don’t go our way, nor set the bar so low that we fail to guide our children to their full potential.

There’s a secret. It’s in the expectations.

The Expectation Dichotomy (And How to Solve It)

Expectations are wrapped in strange dichotomies.

Elizabeth George, best-selling author and Christian speaker, says, “Expectations destroy our peace of mind.” That seems to suggest that if we want to be at peace, we should never expect or plan anything.

But Sam Walton of Walmart and Sam’s Club fame says, “High expectations are the key to everything.” That makes it sound as if nothing will ever be accomplished, without expecting the very best all the time.

Who do we believe?

Perhaps, if we rephrase these quotes, we’ll find the truth:

Elizabeth’s wisdom retold might be, “Unrealistic expectations destroy our peace of mind.” When our expectations are unreasonable, we do set ourselves up for repeated disappointment.

Sam’s words re-imagined might be, “Appropriate expectations are the key to everything.” When our plans consider the strengths and struggles of each person in our family, we succeed.

So they’re both right.

What to Expect (The Key to Success!)

Make expectations real.

Expect the baby will get sick and not sleep.
Expect the teenager will sulk and do sloppy work.
Expect you will fall behind on the laundry and that “must do” thing that’s bugging you.

And this:
Expect that you will often—if not constantly—doubt if you are “doing enough” to homeschool these children and raise them right.
And then. Take a breath.

Expect that God has got your back. Because He does.

Expect you will snuggle that baby all day and all night—thus teaching your older children how important the vulnerable are (and how essential caffeine can be).

Expect you will hear that story read to you one painfully choppy word at a time over and over and over – until your blossoming reader’s face glows with confidence.

Expect you will sit down next to that sulky teenager—and (once again) encourage the teen to glorify God with his or her best work.

Expect to tweak the plan and the schedule… and tweak... and tweak… and tweak it again… adjusting it to the needs of your family as you go.

The best days happen when we surrender our plans to the Lord and ask Him to guide us and help us respond to the needs of our children with love.

Because if you focus on loving the living, breathing people in front of you, made in the image of God, you will find meaning in the mundane. You will find peace amidst the chaos. And you will find God in every moment — because that’s the secret.

When we prioritize the person over the plan, everyone learns.  Some days will be messier than others. Some days we will be more virtuous than others.

And that’s okay.

Let’s sharpen our pencils, line up our books, and smile. Because we know the golden secret to success:  Healthy expectations lead us to Love Itself.

This is the year of learning Love.

Listen and watch Jenny's online webinar, Planning with the Saints Holy Wisdom for Your Homeschool Year. It's a simple click-and-get link to watch any time.

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, June 28, 2019

The Everyone Booklist

*Note: print out to take to the library or used book sale.

Books, books, and more books!
by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson

Last weekend I had the privilege and delight of speaking at the IHM NationalConference. In conversations with parents afterwards, I received many requests for book recommendations. Here are some incomplete lists, rapidly thrown together and clumsily categorized. In my experience (as a child and as a mother) many books which are suitable for an older audience are accessible to younger readers when read aloud. I’ve thrown in some asterisks to indicate some of the “read aloud” selections we have really enjoyed in the last few years. For reference, our children are seven, five, two and a half, and six months old.

Early Chapter Books (for confident readers)
·      Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus*
·      In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson
·      The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder *
·      The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories by Betty MacDonald*
·      The Encyclopedia Brown stories by Donald Sobol*
·      Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater*
·      Sisters of the Last Straw series by Karen Kelly Boyce
·      Ben and Me and other books by Robert Lawson

Books accessible to grade schoolers or younger (read independently or read aloud)
·      The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting*
·      The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye*
·      The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken*
·      Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll*
·      Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner*
·      D'Aulaires Greek Myths and Norse Myths*
·      The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm*
·      The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson*
·      The "Fairy Books" of Andrew Lang*
·      The Light Princess by George MacDonald*
·      The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss*
·      Heidi by Johanna Spyri*
·      The Anne books by L.M. Montgomery*
·      The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame*
·      The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett*
·      The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis*
·      The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien*
·       The Paddington Bear stories by Michael Bond*
·      A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens*
·      Silas Marner by George Eliot
·      The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace*
·      Compendiums of children’s stories by James Herriot*
·      The Mary Poppins novels by P.L. Travers* (though, as a dear friend pointed out to me recently, Mary Poppins’ behavior is not at all what I would recommend in parenting!)

Books that might appeal more to your middle/high school sons (though, honestly, your daughters are likely to enjoy these too—I certainly did!):
·      Anything by Rosemary Sutcliff
·      The Redwall books by Brian Jacques
·      The Living History Library from Bethlehem Books
·      The “Vision Books” Saints Biographies
·      The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
·      Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
·      Various works by Marguerite Henry*
·      The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling*
·      Treasure Island*, Kidnapped*, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
·      The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
·      All Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
·      The Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester
·      The Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian
·      The Biggles stories by W.E. Johns
·      The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, and Mr. Standfast by John Buchan
·      Lord Jim by Josef Conrad
·      A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
·      The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
·      The Aeneid by Virgil
·      Beowulf
·      The Nibelungenlied
·      The Kalevala
·      The historical novels AND the histories by Thomas B. Costain
·      The full works of James Herriot
·      The Civil War trilogy by Shelby Foote
·      The Quiet Man and Other Stories by Maurice Walsh
·      The Man Who Never Was by Ewen Montagu

Books for high schoolers and adults:
·      EVERYTHING by Jane Austen
·      Nicholas Nickleby*, David Copperfield, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
·      The Barsetshire Chronicles by Anthony Trollope (The Warden, Barchester Towers, Dr. Thorne, The Small House at Allington, Framley Parsonage, and The Last Chronicle of Barset); Also He Knew He Was Right
·      Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
·      The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
·      The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
·      Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
·      The Picture of Dorian Gray and ALL THE PLAYS by Oscar Wilde
·      Cranford, North and South, and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
·      The Moonstone and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
·      Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
·      The novels of Georgette Heyer (ladies, this one is for you!)
·      Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Villette by the Brontë sisters
·      Dracula by Bram Stoker
·      EVERYTHING by P.G. Wodehouse (just start reading and never stop)
·      The Ball and the Cross, The Flying Inn, and the Fr. Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton
·      Various novels by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Josephine Tey
·      Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
·      Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
·      Declare and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
·      Jennifer the Damned and Cinder Allia by Karen Ullo

NB: Joseph Pearce has catalogued contemporary Catholic fiction very well and since he has a much wider knowledge of that field than I do, I link one of his catalogues here!

Other works I mentioned (positively) in my talks:
·      An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis
·      Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age by Fr. Seraphim Rose
·      After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre
·      Evangelii Nuntiandi (Pope Paul VI)
·      Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist (which has endless, wondrous, glorious book lists!)
·      “The Last Tools of Learning” by Dorothy L. Sayers
·      Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
·      Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
·      The Light of Christ by Fr. Thomas Joseph White
·      The Hillbilly Thomist bluegrass band (not a book but exemplifying true genius!!!)
·      Present Position of Catholics in England by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Books I am currently reading:
·      Whisper Music by J.B. Toner
·      Death’s Dream Kingdom by Gabriel Blanchard
·      More Walls Broken by Tim Powers
·      The Catholic Writer Today by Dana Gioia
·      The Mummy by Jane Loudon (Thank you to the awesome ladies who told me about this uproarious early Gothic piece!)
·      An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden

And now I am destined to lie awake endlessly cataloging the innumerable books I have forgotten. For more comprehensive lists, there are wonderful resources including Laura Berquist’s books and, of course, the works of our dear, incomparable Maureen Wittmann, especially: For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects with Literature, and her many book lists (most recently, this gem). You can also check out the brilliant and hilarious writings of Susannah Pearce, especially her recent “WhatMakes Great Children’s Literature Great?” and “GreatBooks I Wouldn’t Want to Be In (And Some I Would!)”.

Parents who have favorite books I’ve neglected to list: feel free to comment below and add your suggestions! Parents with particular questions about any of the above, feel free to reach out to me personally at ebourgnicholson at gmail dot com.

To meet Mrs. Nicholson, visit 
To check out Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson's upcoming live, interactive courses, visit