The Art of Writing an Essay

A happy and blessed Easter to you all! This past year, my oldest daughter has been writing essay after essay: essays for English and history classes, essays for college applications, essays for scholarships… it never seems to end.

“Since you are so experienced at writing essays,” I suggested, “why don’t you write an essay on how to write an essay? You know — for the plebians like us.”

So she did. Well, the essay was so witty and clever, I just had to share. Because sometimes we all just need a good chuckle:

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A Super Easy St. Patrick’s Day Craft

Hello! St. Patrick’s day is just around the corner, so I thought I’d share this Holy Trinity Shamrock craft with you. I wanted a good visual that would help my kids understand why St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity.

Here’s what I came up with:

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When Math = Misery

Math. For some children, this is the one subject that makes them balk. One look at a sheet of math problems is enough to make a child cringe and groan. Oh, the dreaded math, which takes forever to complete! The dreaded math, the bane of a student’s existence and the test of a parent’s mettle! When math = misery day after day, how can we motivate our children to complete their assignments with a good attitude and in a timely manner?

Start by finding the root cause.

Here are five reasons why kids complain about math and what we can do to help:

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More Homeschool Activities for Preschoolers with Down Syndrome

Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. As I wrote in my post about Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome, we want to make sure our children are ready for concepts, especially abstract ones, before requiring our kids to work on them. Colors and shapes, which are attributes and not concrete objects, can be especially difficult for preschoolers with T21 to grasp.

A child’s readiness to learn a concept probably depends on combination of genes and environment, nature and nurture. Exposing a child to pre-academic concepts without requiring him/her to learn them may help a child’s readiness for them. Especially if you offer a variety of activities and toys. Young children love novelty — it’s part of their natural drive to investigate and learn. So the more variety you can offer, the more you will rouse their curiosity and internal motivation to learn.

That’s the challenge though — keeping a variety of interesting activities. Here are some activites I’ve found most helpful for teaching Junior letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.

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Strength and Courage for the Homeschooling Mom

I hope you all had a restful and blessed Christmas break. If only Christmas break could last much longer! But now we’re back to the grindstone with a long winter stretching ahead of us, marked with many uncertainties. Are you feeling the need for strength and courage?

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of conversing with a most interesting lady. Cathy (not her real name) was a police woman and mother of two teenage daughters. She worked the night shift in a sketchy Manhattan neighborhood. Consequently, she had stories galore to tell: how she and her partner would bust drug and prostitution rings; how she dragged famous singers, who had passed out intoxicated or over-dosed, out of bars; how she went after notorious gang leaders who then sent her death threats…

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Three Qualities of Great Teachers

How’s your school year going? Whether your kids are homeschooling, distance-learning, or doing some form of hybrid schooling, chances are you’ll be teaching your children to some extent. By default parents are teachers, especially in these uncertain times. So today, I’d like to share a little pedagogy with you, because after all, your teaching style is far more important than the curriculum you use and the plans you make.

We’ve all had some outstanding teachers and some not-so-great teachers. Have you ever stopped to think what made your great teachers great? Have you ever considered how you can be more effective and motivating as a parent-teacher? Here are three qualities of great teachers:

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome at Home

Last spring, I read an intriguing book, When Slow is Fast Enough: Educating the Delayed Preschool Child. It is written by Joan Goodman, a child psychologist who specialized in the diagnosis and early intervention of preschool-aged children with developmental delays. Her book is the result of extensive and highly detailed observations of twenty early intervention programs around the United States.

As a homeschool mom of a preschooler with T21, I was keenly interested in her work. Frankly, I could not put it down. I found her astute observations of these early intervention programs concerning and her recommendations enlightening yet challenging.

Although this book is about early intervention pre-schools, there are some important and useful ideas that parents can glean from Goodman’s work for teaching their preschoolers with Down Syndrome at home:

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Beginning a New Homeschool Year: The Two Best Things You Can Do for Your Homeschool

Well, here we are! The day after Labor Day, Our Lady’s birthday, and for many of you, the first day of a new homeschooling year.  I’m wondering how it went for you all. Great? Wonderful? Not-so-wonderful? Horrible?

However it went, I’d like to share some thoughts about beginning a new home school year including the two best things you can do for your homeschool.

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Free Virtue of the Month Cards!

In my pediatrician’s office, there is a poster that says:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch you words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

It’s so true that our actions become habits which build up or break down our character. And the time for developing good habits — virtues — is while children are young. Children’s characters are like freshly made play-doh – malleable and relatively easy to form. As children grow into teens and then into adulthood, their characters become harder to form, like old playdoh that dries up and gets crusty.

Most kids don’t think of the effect their actions have on their character. But once children reach the age of ten, I think it’s worth pointing out to them that the way they treat their family members now and the virtues they exercise now will have an impact on the type of person they will grow up to be. You don’t become an accomplished pianist just by waiting to become one. You practice daily and faithfully, drilling in those musical passages until they become a part of you. The same goes for developing one’s character. Want to be a great husband and father? Start by being considerate and generous now. Want to be successful in your career? Start by being industrious and persevering now. As I told my son, if you wait until you’re grown to be the wonderful person you want to be, it might be too late, because old habits die hard.

To be a little more proactive about growing in virtue this year, I made Virtue of the Month cards for my kids… and yours!

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Sea to Shining Sea Book List and Lesson Plans

Are any of you using Sea to Shining Sea by Catholic Textbook Project this year? If you have a middle schooler studying American history this year, you should really consider it. It’s been one of our favorite history texts. Sea to Shining Sea is written in an engaging story-like style and has wonderful color pictures and maps.

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