Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Catholic Homeschool Treasury

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury: Nurturing Children's Love for Learning

by Rachel Mackson and Maureen Wittmann
Kindle Edition 2011
1999 Ignatius Press

I recently downloaded the Kindle version of A Catholic Homeschool Treasury, not realizing that it was actually a newish edition of a 1999 book. It does appear that the authors updated the resources section, but the majority of the text is from 1999 which means it is a bit dated. That being said, it is still interesting to read this "sampling of how those in the trenches are successfully finding their way through the homeschooling maze."

The book features articles by various Catholic homeschool parents, representing different varieties of homeschooling styles as well as different age and size families. They offer successes, failures, and lessons learned. The unifying factor is that "all desire to raise and educate our children within the family. And we wish to share with them the richness and beauty of our Catholic faith."

Even as a veteran homeschooler, I did pick up several valuable ideas from this book as well as created a list of resources I want to look into. Perhaps the most valuable tip came from Maureen Wittmann who suggested making a list of the reasons why you homeschool so that you can refer to it when you are discouraged.

As an aside, I think it would be interesting to find out what happened to this collection of homeschoolers over the course of the past fifteen years. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life Runners Creed

"Mother of Life" by Nellie Edwards -
Two dear friends of mine are running the Life Runner marathon (one is doing a half; one a full) this weekend in Ohio. They are founding members of the local Life Runners Chapter in Western Massachusetts. Please say a prayer that they have a safe trip and race!

Life Runners Creed

We believe in the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
We run as a Prayer, that children in the womb may be protected, so that they may be born and welcomed into the Christian community by baptism. 
We run to build Endurance, for the race is long and we must keep our eyes fixed on You Lord.
We run for Awareness, that the eyes of all people may be transformed and see every human life as a reflection of Your glory Lord.
We run for Charity, to provide Truth for mothers and fathers tempted to about their child . . . and healing support for post-abortive women, men, and families. 
We run to End abortion, for Christ has destroyed the power of death, and therefore the power of abortion. 
Guard us all, born and unborn, with your Peace, Lord.
For in You, life is victorious. We pray and run in Your name, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Mortal Blessings

Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell
by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2014

I am a daughter of aging parents. While I don’t know the day or the hour, I know that the time is coming when I will need to walk with them on their final journey home. Death is part of life, and as a Catholic, I understand that it is the doorway to a different level of existence. Yet I fear all that may come before, and the grieving that will come after. I do not know how heavy the cross will be; only that God will be there in the pain and suffering. It is from that perspective that I read Mortal Blessings by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a record of the last forty-eight days of her mother’s life and the grieving process that came after. 

O’Donnell’s memoir moves from the particular to the universal. She shares the unique aspects of her own relationship with her mother, the imperfections of their lives. She writes of the circumstances of her mother’s final illness and the way that her family coped with this transitional time. Yet, despite those individual details, the story is one that many will relate to. How many of us women have challenging relationships with our mothers? How many have had to become the caregiver to the one who once cared for us?

O’Donnell reflects on the sacramental elements of this season of life. Inspired by Andre Dubus’ quote that “this daily task of feeding his children is a kind of sacrament,” she explores the elements of the divine found in the ordinary moments of life caring for an ailing parent. She offers us the sacraments of speech, distance, beauty, humor, cell phone and wheelchair (the ability to have contact with the world outside her hospital room), witness, and honor. The epilogue offers an eighth – the sacrament of memory.

In many ways in these moments, it was the small things that matter: the kindness of a nurse who treated her mother with respect; trying to communicate for someone who couldn’t speak for themselves; her sister doing her mother’s hair and nails to help her feel beautiful; finding moments to laugh; being able to reach out to people on the phone; and simply being present in her mother’s hour of need.

Mortal Blessings offers much to think about. While the writing of this book was part of the healing process for O’Donnell, she has done the rest of us a service in allowing us into these dark, yet grace-filled, days of her life. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Montessori at Home

Montessori at Home: A Complete Guide to Teaching Your Preschooler at Home Using the Montessori Method
by Heidi Anne Spietz
Rossmoor, CA: American Montessori Consulting, 1988

"Montessori at Home" is an older book you might want to find in your local library system if you are interesting in using Montessori methods in your homeschool.

Heidi Anne Spietz offers a review of the basic tenets of a Montessori education, then offers very concrete examples of how to carry out such an education for children from ages three to six. She provides ways to make Montessori materials, integrate practical life skills, observe the world, and teach numbers, letters, shapes and geography. This is a very useful book for those homeschooling a preschooler!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Catholic Artist Stephen B. Whatley

The September 2014 issue of St. Anthony Messenger featured an article on Catholic artist Stephen B. Whatley. His art is so vibrant and unique.  In his 40s, he converted to the Catholic faith and shares, "I totally depend on God and prayer. At the beginning of any painting, there's this enormous buildup. I . . . am rendered powerless. We're so often told in Scripture that fear is negative and that we should have no fear if we trust in God - but it seems a necessary part of my creative process. Through that fear, I am divinely pushed to look to God for direction. I am at the foot of the cross, with my head completely bowed. That is [my] personal journey."

To view more of Whatley's work, please visit

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Montessori Learning in the 21st Century

Montessori Learning in the 21st Century: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

by M. Shannon Helfrich
Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 2011

Homeschooling truly starts at birth, but because I now have a preschooler who according to society's expectations should be at school, I've been researching Montessori methods, hoping to find ways to incorporate some of that thought and process into our homeschool experience. "Montessori Learning in the 21st Century" by Shannon Helfrich was very interesting, but not what I was looking for.

Helfrich, a Montesorri teacher trainer, examiner and consultant, offers a very good argument for Montessori style learning. She discusses Maria Montessori, her motivation, and her methods as well as explores child development, sensory learning, and language acquisition. This is a book primarily about theory and as such it is intelligent and informative. Chapter Eleven, "This is my Montessori School" is the only one to offer concrete ideas about how to implement Montessori-style methods, but even that is not a how-to manual.

If you are looking for the theory and educational basis behind a Montessori education, this is the book for you. If you are searching for a practical how-to guide, search elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

September is Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Month

September is Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Month. Interstitial Cystitis is a medical condition that causes intense bladder pain and urgency. It's not something I've ever talked about publicly, but it is a condition that I have suffered from for over 10 years.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed within a few months of starting with symptoms and daily medication and a restricted diet helps me. Most of the time, I live with a mild case of symptoms. I know it is there, but I can maintain my daily life. I have periodic flare-ups, often brought on by stress or an accidental ingestion of some food I'm not supposed to eat, that are truly incredibly painful and debilitating. I hope and pray that I don't ever reach the point where that is my constant state of being.

If you suffer from undiagnosed bladder pain or know someone who suffers from IC, I invite you to find out more at and