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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How to Homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten

Some moms have asked me how I homeschool preschool and kindergarten. For many moms, homeschooling preschool is the testing ground. It is one way of discerning if teaching their children at home is something they can or want to do. Of course now, many parents have no choice but to do a little kinder-school at home. Distance-learning at such an early age just doesn’t work. But the good news is doing preschool or kindergarten at home can be simple and inexpensive. Plus, it’s really fun!

Each time I’ve homeschooled a preschooler, it has been different from what I’ve done with my other children. How I teach has evolved over the years based on family circumstance and the individual child. Some of my kids were eager to start “school” with books and crayons; others wanted to learn in a context of play. Doing “preschool” with Junior (which is essentially speech and occupational therapy) is a whole new ball game, but it’s so much fun. There is no one right way to teach preschool or kindergarten at home, but here are some ideas that I hope will help you find helpful:

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Finding the Courage to Homeschool

As the tropical storm Isaiah pounded Maryland yesterday, I couldn’t help but think, it never rains… but it pours! Last week, Cale Clark at Relevant Radio asked me to chat with him about St. Martha on the Cale Clarke Show. Two days later, Paola Ciskanik at the Catholic Homeschool Conference asked if I would send in a bonus talk for the Jump Start Your Homeschool event, which is tomorrow (8/6/20).

My talk is about Finding the Courage to Homeschool, because I know so many of you are anxious about this coming school year. There are so many uncertainties, so many unknowns. Who knows how long schools will be forced into distance-learning? And I know many of you are wondering, Can I homeschool? Should I homeschool? How am I going to manage?

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Four Ways to Make Your Homeschool Run on Auto-Pilot

Three years ago, I was at the peak of my homeschooling load. I was homeschooling five kids, and I had baby with Down Syndrome. (Think lots and lots of doctors’ appointments.) It was a joyful year, but it was also intense. On the one hand, I had a kindergartener who needed help with almost everything. On the other hand, I had an eighth grader who was preparing for the momentous HSPT (High school Placement Test). And in between, I had three high-energy boys.

Sometimes homeschooling all five kids felt like a juggling act. But in reality, it was more of a choreographed dance, with everyone doing their part. Such choreography allowed our homeschool to run on auto-pilot: the kids knew what they had to do without being told, they usually started their school work without having to be prompted, and they continued to do their school work even when I had to be elsewhere. This is not to say that our days were always smooth and the kids were always co-operative… we certainly had our moments! But, overall we had a rhythm to our day which allowed for much autonomous learning.

For those of you who are wondering how to structure your homeschool day, here are four ways to make your homeschool run on autopilot:

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Roll-Over Lesson Plans: How to Use Them in Your Homeschool and Why They’re So Effective

Checklists. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with checklists. We love when we get to check off an item — done! Yay! We hate when we don’t get to check off an item on that list — ugh. Failure.

Whether we like it or not, checklists are, for many of us, a necessary part of lesson planning: a way to keep track of what we need to do, what our kids need to do, what has been done, and what has not. If you’re homeschooling multiple children, checklists are essential. However, we can easily fall into the trap of feeling as if we are slaves to the list. And we certainly want to avoid having a checklist mentality when it comes to teaching and learning. Ideally, we want our kids to enjoy the process of learning (at least sometimes!) and not just get the work over with. More importantly, we want to set an example for our children that nurturing relationships are more important than completing tasks.

Over my many years of homeschooling, I’ve come up with as system that has allowed us to use checklists without being stressed out by them. Here’s what we do:

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Reading Comprehension with 20 Saints

Here’s a project I recently completed for my third and fifth grader: I made a reading comprehension workbook for 20 saints stories from Anne Heffernan’s 57 Stories of Saints. When possible, I like to combine subjects. This workbook will allow my kids to learn about the inspiring lives of twenty saints while sharpening their reading comprehension skills. Take a look:

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The Catholic Homeschool Conference is for ALL Catholic Parents

One thing I always enjoy each year is attending a homeschooling conference. Not only do I get to learn from inspirational speakers, I also get to catch up with old friends and browse new curricula. If I come to a conference feeling worn out from the school year, I usually leave energized and encouraged.

Of course, this summer many homeschooling conferences have been canceled. So I was glad to hear about the Catholic Homeschool Conference, which is online and FREE.

And whether you’ll be homeschooling in the fall or not, this conference will have talks relevant to all Catholic families.

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