Friday, July 30, 2010

The Good Books.

If you noticed, I've recently changed our reading list found to the left of the page (it's linked directly to Library Thing). I have now included our new kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grade reading list for the 2010-2011 school year. These are all books found on Angelicum Academy's website.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around how on earth I'm going to read all these books to the kids. Last year, we did the 2nd grade good books list and the kids all sat in together. This year, however, I decided to give each child their own reading time. This is not only because they each have book reports to write on them, but because not all the kids will want to listen to each other's books. For example, those books on Marco's 3rd grade list are too advanced for Anthony.

Also, now that we are starting kindergarten again, I feel like Anthony really needs to have these wonderful books read to him. After all, I haven't read them since Marco was in kindergarten and I'm excited to share these classics with the him too!

For the mean time, I'm trying really hard to decide how exactly I'm going to split our reading time. Perhaps do some before bedtime, some during quiet time, and another during our lunch break? It's a challenge, but I'm confident that I'll find a way to work around it.

And if you haven't read any of these books to your children, I highly encourage you to do so!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gathering Books.

Well we are almost at August and I still haven't gotten all my books!! This year has been a very different one from the past. Usually, I've had all our books and supplies by the end of July...along with lesson plans, planners, and our schedules. This year is different in many ways.

First of all, we have this giant new house to completely settle into. All the unpacking is mostly done, expect for a few boxes here and there. But the organization is NOT DONE!! There are still bedrooms lacking curtains, painting, decorations, etc. I'm not feeling like I'm in a hurry to do it all. After all, we plan on staying here for a very long time and I want to take things slow so that it comes out just how I want it to. But regardless of how slow I take things, it's still a new house that has put a big dent into how I manage my time.

Then there's our guests. We have been so fortunate to have friends and family visit us in our new home! And this is NOT A COMPLAINT! But having visitors does take away time from planning our school and getting things done. We have been living in our home for almost 4 months now...and we have had guests staying with us for 7 weeks out of those 4 months!!! And as little as my duties to host may have been, I let it interfere with my plans to work out our new school plans.

And why am I still gathering books?'s expensive! Purchasing books and supplies for 4 children quickly adds up. Add that to the expenses of buying a house and moving in (well, actually settling in has been pricier!). I've never been one to limit myself in what I need to buy for the kids' education...but let's just say that I'm a lot more aware of how quickly all the expenses add up. It makes me feel like I need to space things out more.

In the end, I should hardly complain. Our books are 95% purchased. But there is still so many lovely books that would be so fun to have!! I'm actually making a list. And if I ever see anything on my list at a good price...I'm snatching it up!

How do all of you with large families gather your books? Is it a one-time spending trip? Or more of a gradual thing, like what I'm doing this year? And let me tell you....I don't like the gradual buying. I'm a need it and get it kind of girl.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Creating a Home Altar.

We often (and for the past 4-5 years) have used our piano bench as a teaching spot. Not only does it seat my kids for piano practice, but it has served as a make-shift altar for when they play Mass. In the bench they store an altar cloth, a little missal, and other small necessities used to play Mass. And every time I hear the kids say "OK...I'm going to be the priest today. Let's go play," I start daydreaming about finally having the perfect little altar in our home.

Now that we are mostly settled in our new home, I've decided to just do it!! Visions in my mind abound with the many home altars I've seen, especially those found in Mexico. Since we moved in, I've been using our entry table from our previous home to house some statues, rosaries, and holy water.

As you can barely see, there is a drawer that holds prayer cards, a rosary booklet, and some rosaries. What the table is missing is a little table cloth to coincide with the liturgical season, a bible, and perhaps a candle.

Now when we do our morning rosary and offering, we are usually upstairs in the school room. It's a great start to our school day and the room is sunny, bright, and uplifting. Not only do we do our morning prayers in our school room, but we often read our Bible there before bedtime. So my new goal is to create an altar in our school room.

After searching for images of home altars, I have come to one important conclusion. Home altars vary from home to home and anything from family photos to holy cards can be placed on them. Home altars aren't usually fancy and any table, bookcase, or space will do. It's really what works for your family.

When thinking "What's going to work for us?" I came up with a list of things that I absolutely wanted in our altar prayer space.
  1. An interactive space. I wanted something that can be a hands-on area. A place where the kids can feel that they can come to and touch things.
  2. I want to be inspired and I want the kids to be inspired. Sometimes looking at something beautiful or hearing beautiful music, inspires us to think about God.
  3. A learning space. Some books are usually left unnoticed unless I take them out. Perhaps highlighting a saint's book on the altar or prayer space would encourage a child to ask about it or read it.
  4. A showcase. An altar with room to display what the kids are learning about in saint and religious studies, as well as crafts dedicated to our beautiful Catholic faith.
  5. Flexibility. I want to be able to switch things around easily.
Not too difficult of a list, is it? Well, after rearranging books, finding appropriate art, and visualizing where things should go...our altar is complete!! Lucky for me that I have lots of pretty frames of Jesus and Our Lady to choose from as well as a number of holy statues; all of which I plan to rotate.

So following is a little "tour" of our new school room Catholic altar, complete with picture by picture descriptions!!

I decided to go with what I had and used two bookcases for our altar. All the books seen here pertain to our Catholic faith, lives of the saints, etc. The area is in a little corner by the window and offers lots of natural light. Also, if you notice that I'm keeping the altar cloths to go in conjunction with the liturgical season...these are just pretty napkins that I was able to get of all the liturgical colors (mine are from Pier 1 Imports).

A picture of what's on top of our home altar.

And a close up.

To the left I decided to hang the kids' rosaries and put a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I thought this was perfect because it has the three children (Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta) kneeling before her. A great example to any child.

In the center I placed the kids' bible. Behind the Bible there is a makeshift altar upon which our crucifix is and our "Father Nick"is on the side. This is part of the interactive part of our altar in which the kids can change the liturgical colors on the priest paper-doll, as well as on the little white altar. Currently we have green for ordinary time. And it's nothing fancy either. The altar is a small box covered with white paper and the "altar cloth" is actually a piece of construction paper.

On the right side, I hung our St. Michael holy water font. I also have our saints book, "Saints, A Year in Faith and Art." This book features a saint for every day of the year. The glass container is like a prayer jar. Every time we pray together, like the rosary, we take out all the little papers from the glass container. Each paper has an intention for us to pray for. It might be something like an end to abortion, a prayer for a family member or friend, or for any other intentions we come up with. This is an excellent way to teach your children how to pray for others and it keeps us from forgetting someone or something that we meant to pray for. Also notice that the kids have put their cootie catchers there too.

Above it all is a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This particular piece of art was a gift from my mom about 10 years ago. She got it in Mexico and I have always loved it. In the future I plan to rotate with other religious art that I have, perhaps to coordinate with the liturgical year.

I thought I would post a picture of this too. It's the book cases I use for our little home altar. I keep all our children's religious books here. From lives of the saints, to Catholic homeschool resources. It's a place where the kids (or I) can go to get a book and be uplifted.

The top-most shelves are for the sole purpose of the kids. On the left I keep a pretty picture of Our Lady, a candle for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and two books that I pick out for the kids to read to themselves or for me to read aloud. Currently we have "For the Children" and "Once Upon a Time Saints" (laying on the shelf). These books will also be rotated with others.

On the right side, I keep a bin full of rosary books, liturgical vestments for our priest paper-doll, napkins in the liturgical colors to cover our altar, construction paper for the little paper altar, our prayer wheel, and other little things for the kids to play with and do. I will be taking paper activities from our liturgical box to keep this somewhat stocked.

And that concludes the tour of our new school room, home altar. I love it and it works for our family's needs. From being interactive and inspirational, to being a great learning space with flexibility. I'm sure that as time passes, this space will evolve and continue to change along with our needs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Angelicum Academy's TouchPebbles.

Beginning in 3rd grade, Angelicum Academy offers a good books, online discussion. The students "meet" weekly online, and a moderator guides the students through the reading and assignments. These online discussions are based on the Socratic method and help the younger child transition into their Great Books program.

This year I was extremely close to enrolling Marco for these classes. But the enrollment fee for Angelicum is separate for the online classes. That means an extra $295. I'm not saying that these classes are not worth it, as I'm guessing they probably are; but I do not know whether we'd fully participate, so that kept me from signing on.

I did however, order the text and teacher's book they use for the online class. They recommend following their lesson plans, even if you don't enroll for the discussion group. This is what I'll be attempting this year. If it goes well, then I will probably enroll Marco in the discussion group for next year.

You can read more about Touchstones Discussion Project on their website. If anyone has ever had their child be a part of the Socratic online discussions with Angelicum, I'd love to hear about it!! It really does look like a worthwhile class and I'm kind of excited to try it out here at home, although it won't be the same as if he was part of a class.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Catching Up.

I promise I haven't gone missing!! We are still having fun with my mom and dad and I'm excited at all the fun we've had. On top of that, I'm trying to get some organization done around the house. Marco is moving into his own room and little Jimmy's closet needs to get some kind of system put in. And please, lets not mention all the school planning that I was supposed to have been working on, but have been neglecting.Things are definitely not "same as usual" around here. 

Our schedules have been out the window for 2 weeks! But all of that is in a good way. What kid doesn't want to help their grandfather build a tree house? What kid doesn't want to hang out with their cousins? And what fun its been going out to the museum, Lego store, restaurants, and antique shops!

So as the fun continues here, I hope all of you continue to check in on me! Eventually, I'll have to start posting about planning our lessons, preparing for first day of school, and revealing that nice little spot in our school room.  But until then, I'm posting random pictures of my them!!!

My mom and Christian.  

Dad with Isabella and Anthony.

Allie caught in a moment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Samantha. American Girl Club.

Isabella is going on week 3 of this round of American Girl Club. They are reading Samantha and we are enjoying it quite a bit! Today, the girls got to make gingerbread houses to go along with book 3 of the Samantha series. Isabella had a blast and I'm planning for next week's club (which I am hosting).

Take a look at the fun!!

And on another note, my family is visiting from Texas and I've been busy hanging out with them...which might explain fewer blog posts. But I am also diligently working on my homeschool plans, which I will be writing about shortly!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thank You Familia Catolica!

I received this award from Xhonane at Familia Catolica (Catholic Family). Thanks!! This prize is awarded to blogs that spread "values such as art, literature, ethical and cultural values. " Wow and wow! I'm glad to be considered among those!

Thanks Xhonane!! Now all you go get to her blog (click on the Google Translate button if you have to !!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Prayer Wheel.

So I've been talking religion curriculum with a friend lately and trying to revamp some things. While trying to get things in order for the new school year, I came across our handy, little prayer wheel and thought it would be something you might all find useful!

Last year, Marco made a neat prayer wheel at one of his sacramental prep classes. It had a few prayers on it and the assignment was to have him "spin the wheel" and recite whatever prayer the wheel showed. I thought it was such a fun way to practice that I decided to make one with all the prayers that the kids know (or should know!).

Of course, the prayers didn't work on one wheel so I adjusted it and made it into a double wheel. It's not fancy, the words aren't centered, and they even might be a little crooked....but it worked for us!! I printed them on card stock paper, inserted a fastener to what looked like the center, and then I made cut-outs for the prayers to show through.

Simple, easy, and a fun way to work on prayer recitation. Feel free to print out my version or you can even make your own. Replace prayers for the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, poems, or anything you need your kids to recite.'s a bit crooked as you can see. But it's fun way to practice!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keeping Busy.

So we never got around to doing all the wonderful things I had planned for the weekend. My fun, 4th of July crafts are still in my drawer and we missed out on fireworks with friends. Plans can never be set when you have sick children! But I'm glad that some of them are getting better. Unfortunately, little Jimmy has caught whatever bug they had and now he's pretty miserable.

But we keep moving forward!! I'm working on a little space in our school room that I'm excited to share with you. I can't blog about it now since it's not ready and I want to have pictures and everything. BUT...I will let you know what we did today that can maybe give you a clue!

We spent the morning reviewing lessons and then finally got to some fun stuff. And if you wonder, we have all the Teacher's Helper CD's from Nippert & Co. Artworks. We love them and have most of their books and other products!! was nice to depart from our regularly scheduled activities to have a bit of fun doing crafts.

And like I mentioned earlier, these crafts go along with what we've been preparing for our school room! I think you can guess the theme of what we are working on!

We started off with colored pencils and a print-out for a "cootie catcher" featuring the Beatitudes.

Here is a finished product! These are great!! A Beatitude Cootie Catcher!

Pick a number.

See if you can memorize all of the Beatitudes!!

While we colored, Christian got a little bored and decided to play with "Father Nick"...another clue to what our little project is all about!!

"Father Nick" is a paper doll that helps the kids learn their liturgical colors. Each one of the kids has their own and although I was waiting to use them once our school room project was done, they couldn't wait and I couldn't resit letting them play with their paper dolls. They each colored and cut their own, after all!

Any guesses? Little by little it's getting done and hopefully by next week, my little project will be done!! It will, however, always be a work in progress.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Moving Slowly.

It seems that we were ready for full steam ahead, but are now moving at a snails pace. We are officially on day 6 of having sick children. The kids have been sick with a stomach virus, ear infections, fever, name it!! Luckily, everyone is recovering and today we started doing more.

History is waiting for us and I've postponed it until tomorrow. We also have some other fun crafts planned for 4th of July and I'm hoping everyone will feel as close to 100% as possible. In the mean is a picture of little Jimmy with his cousin Sebastian!!

New School Room Tour.

It's back to school time and it seems like everywhere in the homeschool blogosphere, people are giving tours of their learning spaces.  ...