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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Talking About St. Martha on Relevant Radio

Yesterday was the feast day of one of my favorite saints, the hard-working, anxious St. Martha. I was actually relaxing (for once!) while watching my children swim in our neighbor’s pool, when I got a call from Cale Clarke. He wanted to know if I would like to talk about this blog and St. Martha on his nationally syndicated talk show on Relevant Radio… that very day!

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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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Teaching Your Kids to be Tidy

How’s your summer going? I hope you have fun plans lined up and some time to enjoy a slower pace of life. One thing I always do in the summers is establish a new routine for chores. When new chores become habitual in the summer, the coming school year goes more smoothly… and it helps a lot!

Another thing I work on during the summer is teaching my kids to be orderly. I wish I were one of those people who are oblivious to clutter, socks on the floor, and toys randomly scattered throughout the house. Instead,  for better or worse, I’m kind of a neat freak. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I have learned to put on my blinders and ignore scattered toys, especially the path of destruction left by Hurricane Junior, (a.k.a. the three-year-old). However, order is an important virtue. So it’s something we work on throughout the year, but especially during the summer.

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Our Favorite Homeschool Curriulum this Year (2019-2020)

It’s that time of year again — you know, when we start thinking about the coming school year. With all the craziness of this pandemic, I’ve been grateful that we are a homeschooling family and our lives have not been turned upside down. Actually, it’s been nice not running to one activity after another. It’s been really nice having my highschoolers home all day. They’ve been playing music together in the evenings out on the deck and having wild games of hide and seek all over the house and yard with their younger siblings.

But getting back to the point of this post: Many of you are thinking about new curricula for the coming year. Usually in May, my homeschool group does a curriculum share fair, where we bring our favorite books to a hostess’ home and place them on several tables. Then we wander around the home and look at all the curricula that people have brought. That’s not going to happen this spring, but we can certainly share online! So I asked my kids to tell me their favorite curricula from this year. Here’s what they chose:

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What Prayer Might Look Like if You’re a Saintly Mom

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful moms! I hope your children spoil you with lots of love and appreciation! Here’s my little bit of encouragement for all you moms who are seeking holiness in the midst of children, chores, and distractions.

St. Frances of Rome. Have you heard of her? She was a 15th c. wife, mother, and mystic. (I never thought it possible for mom and mystic to go together, but there you have it.) At the age of twelve she earnestly desired to become a nun. (She probably noticed that nuns tend to look serene, whereas mothers tend to look harried.) However, her father had already arranged her marriage. When she went weeping to her spiritual director about about it, he told her to stop seeking her own will and to start accepting God’s.

Reluctantly she married the wealthy nobleman her father had chosen for her. It turned out to be a long and happy marriage; she and Lorenzo loved eachother dearly. Between raising three children and managing a large, bustling household (castle, actually), Frances was very busy. But she never lost her desire for a deep contemplative prayer life.

For those of you who struggle to find time alone for prayer, I thought you’d appreciate this wonderful description of what St. France’s prayer life was like when her children were young:

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Easter Activities for Toddlers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Hi! It’s me again. 🙂 Can you believe that Easter is right around the corner! To keep my mind off all the COVID-19 news, I’ve been busy preparing Junior’s activities for the month of April. There are so many fun, educational activites you can do with Easter eggs! I’m posting again so soon because I hope you find some ideas here to help keep little hands and minds busy during this time of quarantine:

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Speech Therapy Resources for Toddlers with Down Syndrome

This post is for a group of children so dear to my heart: toddlers with Down Syndrome and/or speech delays.

Experts say the the first three years of life is the most important period for the development of speech and language. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, our Junior and toddlers like him won’t be getting speech therapy for who knows how long. This is a real setback, unless parents take a proactive role in providing their little ones with therapy at home. Of course, getting therapy from an experienced and qualified speech therapist would be best, but there are many resources to help parents out.

So I’d like to share with you a list of speech therapy resources that we have found most helpful. Many of them have been recommended by Junior’s therapists and by a dear friend who is a speech language pathologist.

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25 Screen-Free Educational Activities for Kids

“Mom, I’m bored.” Have you heard that yet? It’s only been one week of closed schools… and it’s probably felt like a long one. Social distancing is tough on kids and tougher on parents. No school, no sports or extracurricular activities, not even playdates! How can we keep our kids occupied during this coronavirus season? Here are 25 (mostly) educational activities to keep your kids busy, engaged, and away from the screen:

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