Kids and Smart Phones: Weighing the Pros and Cons

How many of you are thinking of getting your tween a cell phone for Christmas? Because we all know that in the eyes of a tween or teen, a shiny new cell phone under the Christmas tree is even better than Santa. And the pressure is on: everyone at school has a cell phone nowadays. It seems that all the kids on sports teams, scouts, and youth groups have cell phones. If you don’t get your kid a cell phone this Christmas, you’re a veritable Scrooge forcing your child to remain in the dark ages.

But before you jump on the cell-phone band wagon, consider the pros and cons:

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Homeschooling with a Toddler in Tow

Ah, those toddlers! Those cuddly little bundles of curiosity and energy! For many, many years in a row,   I’ve homeschooled with a squiggly toddler on my lap, underfoot, here, there, and everywhere.  Then I had a few years reprieve, and now here we are again trying to solve algebraic problems while the toddler pulls the books off the shelf, slings the markers across the schoolroom, and yanks drawers off their casters.  And, of course, pulls the keys off the computer.

Somehow, I don’t remember how I managed in years past.  I do have recollections of finding all the match box cars in the toilet. But I do have some survival strategies I’d like to share with you that might make homeschooling with a toddler a little more peaceful.

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The Privilege of Raising a Child with Down Syndrome

“You are a joy for Jesus.” A priest once told this to me in confession, and I was startled and surprised. I am so often aware of my faults and failings. They pile up before my eyes and fill me with self-doubt and discouragement. How could I, a spiritual weakling, one who does not pray enough and falls into the same sins again and again, possibly be a joy for Jesus? 

It took a child with Down Syndrome to show me how.

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St. Don Bosco on the Education and Discipline of Youth

Last post, I shared with you St. Don Bosco’s secret to discipline.  Did you read how he could get 500 boys to sit in a hall and study quietly and diligently, without threats or punishment?   If you have boys, St. Don Bosco is the saint for you! He is a shining example for parents and teachers. Today I share with you some of his own words of wisdom on education and discipline:

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St. Don Bosco’s Secret to Discipline

One of my favorite saints is Don Bosco. Whenever my boys are particularly unruly, I think of him who dedicated his life to the care and education of the street boys of Turin. Beloved by his pupils, he transformed the lives of countless youth, giving them a Christian education and helping them to grow in holiness. For me, St. Don Bosco is a powerful intercessor. After all, if he was able to work wonders for the derelict raggamuffins of 18th c. Turin, surely he can do something for my well-meaning, but rambunctious boys.

Furthermore, St. Don Bosco is a shining example to parents and teachers. Researching his writings, I came upon this wonderful anecdote, which he himself wrote. I just had to share with you — St. Don Bosco’s Secret to Discipline:

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Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Literature

Last week, my teenage daughter said to me, “I love talking about books.” I couldn’t agree more. And the popularity of book clubs is evidence that we’re not alone. What a pleasure it is to read a good book and then talk about it!

Thankfully, doing these two simple things is an effective way of developing critical thinking skills — provided you ask and discuss the right questions. So, as I promised in my last post, here is a list of questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy that you can ask your children/teens to help them think critically about the books they are reading.

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Helping our Children Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Happy September! Since we’re at the beginning of a new school year, I thought I’d share a little pedagogy with you. Specifically, I would like to draw your attention to the importance of developing critical thinking skills in our children. In fact, one of our goals as educators should be to help our students become critical thinkers. It’s not enough for our students to be able to memorize and regurgitate information. It’s not even enough for them to be able to understand and explain the information they have learned. Once students begin middle school, they need to develop even higher thinking skills.

Enter Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchy of critical thinking skills laid out by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1956. For decades educators have been using these six objectives to help students develop critical thinking skills. So it’s something homeschoolers need to know about. Here’s what it looks like:

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Why I Choose to Homeschool

With the days of summer coming to an end, I am sure some of you (myself included) are bracing yourselves for another year of homeschooling. Every August I find myself wondering how I will ever teach multiple subjects to multiple kids, juggle the piles of grading and laundry, get my kids to their many activities, cook decent meals, pay the bills, etc., etc., all with a very active, curious toddler in tow. No wonder the end of summer is always accompanied with apprehension!

How timely, then, is this post by Amy Arrowsmith, a recent Catholic convert and new-comer to the world of homeschooling. You know what I love about converts and newbies? Their idealism and fervour, their newly-opened eyes to God’s incredible love, and their high hopes. If you’ve been homeschooling for a year or two or five or more, your spiritual vision might be dulled and your enthusiasm jaded by the daily grind of educating your kids. Still nursing the scars of last-year’s battle wounds, you might have a lot of misgivings about another year of homeschooling. I encourage you to read Amy’s post, which I hope you will find refreshing and inspiring. Educating our children at home is truly a noble calling and an amazing privilege. May you begin this year with hope and anticipation for all the good that God will do with us and through us!

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23+ Easy Chapter Books for Wholesome Girls

As a child, one of my favorites things about summer was having the luxury to read, and read, and read. Now, each summer I give my kids a reading list, and I make sure they have plenty of time to delve into their books and get lost in a story.  Here is a list I compiled many years ago for my oldest daughter, now updated for my youngest girl to enjoy. 

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