...get right back up there before you lose your nerve. Wow. Has it really been that long? I could make excuses. I'm actually quite good at it (my kids had to get the skill from someone). That, however, would be a waste of time. We're all busy, and we all have other projects which take over our time. Some of those projects even pay some of the bills! Fortunately, however, while I have been off lollygagging elsewhere, I have also been finding some amazing resources that most homeschooling moms, and even a lot of other moms would not want to be without! Today, while I remember how to write, I'll share a few of my favorites. Forgive the scatter shot approach. Hopefully you will find something that will work for you. Oh, and homeschoolers, please don't navigate away thinking, "Thank heavens we don't need any of these! Our school year is finally, FINALLY, almost over!" Consider doing something fun and informal over the summer. Heck, if you live where I live, the outdoors is not fit for man nor beast anyway. My dear lovelies know that when summer starts, we're just getting started...(cue evil laugh).

Nadene at Practical Pages has put together a compendium of resources that boggles my mind (admittedly not too difficult to do) every time I look at it. The fact that she offers these resources for free astounds me. Her art era timelines and paper dolls are just so neat! Nadene's webpage is further proof that you absolutely can homeschool for free, especially with moms like her sharing their resources so generously.

Speaking of offering resources for free (and I really should have these in their own separate category, but when I posted them on my Facebook, I was so pleased to find out that two of my friends drained their printer ink printing from them!), these two sites are an absolute goldmine! Donna Young's site will take you hours to explore. There are more things on this site than even I can imagine (and my imagination is pretty limitless). Check out the planners , the full penmanship series , and, one of my favorites, the planners for Apologia's Young Explorers Series. If navigating the site becomes overwhelming, Donna offers her entire site, plus many more resources, on CD. Happily, the CD is on sale right now! I've been debating its purchase for what feels like years, but looking all through the site again to write about it has finally convinced me that my homeschool cannot be without these resources ready at my fingertips!

Another site that is full of useful printables is Chart Jungle. Don't be fooled by the unassuming front page. There are charts for every possible use on this site. Look around and find what you need.

Finally, this site is a rather random one to throw in, but it is so neat, and my kids just love the coloring pages. As we read our ancient Greek history, Perseus and Medusa come to life with these free coloring pages. They are so detailed, and so free!

I have tons more, and I won't be absent nearly as long next time. I hope!
...when you would rather be writing your blog! I still have many things to share. I have a list of posts in my "to be written" mental file a mile long. I have also been tremendously blessed to be getting lots of freelance writing assignments, though, and all of them are in the homeschooling field. For starters, I will now be a regular contributor to Heart of the Matter. I'll be writing a column concentrating on homeschooling your gifted child. It's a subject near and dear to my heart, and I hope that some of the things that I have learned may be of help to someone else. Although they are not always thought of in this manner, gifted children truly are "special needs" children. They require a different approach in homeschooling and often, although not always, a different curriculum. They also may require a different approach in discipline and in other areas of life not related to homeschooling. What a blessing - and a challenge - all of our children are!

Speaking of children, I have added one more...pet to my household. I don't hold with the theory that pets are four-legged children (something about the whole animals don't have souls thing probably), but boy is Jack a lot of work! Jack is an almost three month old yellow Lab, and he's a sweetheart, but he inspires in me many of the same feelings that Achilles does: frustration mixed with joy and pride, combined with that odd mixture of the desire to hug him and throttle him all at once! Needless to say, Jack and Achilles are the best of friends! Kindred spirits will always find one another...

My next absence won't be as long, unless, of course, Jack succeeds in eating my carpet, my couch, and my children, as he seems wont to do! Until then, happy feast of Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel (Sept. 29th)!
I've been absent because I've had a flood of freelance assignments. We should all have my problems! I have also been cogitating a curriculum that I really want to write. The sites I am about to share should provide hints. They are also just darn great sites for any Catholic who wants a wealth of resources at her fingertips. What I have not been doing is laundry. In about 24 more hours that will prove truly problematic for Romula, the clothes-horsiest of my offspring...

The Church History section of the Theology Library website is amazing. Links upon links upon more links. I'm working on sorting through them. There are thousands.
  • This one, a Guide to Early Church Documents, deserves to be broken out of the pack. If you teach Theology, Church History, Religion, or have ever wondered what the Apostolic Fathers, the Patristics, or even Herodotus and Thucydides had to say, this is where you want to be.
We homeschoolers, especially of the classical persuasion, all know how important the almighty timeline is! How about this one, which makes the excellent point that the Catholic Church is nothing if not Apostolic. I really love this timeline. It will make explaining certain aspects of church history, and even many aspects of European history, so much easier when I finally get to that point with my children. Well, I'm already at that point. It seems that they aren't quite ready for this level of learning yet. It's just darn inconsiderate of them.

For your more traditional timeline, I offer you this site. So many of the wonderful timeline projects and timeline aids that you can buy or find free on the Internet don't include key Catholic events, much less the lives of the Saints. Your worries are over. Now your timeline can be both historically and Catholically complete. Actually, of course, history cannot be complete without including Catholicism.

I have come to the conclusion that I don't want my history curriculum to include Catholic history at all, even if it is a Catholic curriculum. I can't find one that takes an even view of history, Catholic or not. You won't find a more devoutly believing Catholic than me. Please understand, I didn't say that you won't find a better Catholic. Open your front door. You probably just found one. In terms of a deep and abiding Faith and, yes, knowledge, I rank up there, though. Having said that, though, I'll also say that Catholics are not responsible for everything that ever happened in world history, and too much of what I've read in Catholic history reads as if that were true.

My solution? A Catholic accompaniment to any history course. Catholic history, told separately, which dovetails with world history. After all, the two are really inextricable throughout much of history, but where they diverge (i.e., such a history companion does not need even to address eastern civilization or go into detail about the Wars of the Roses, etc), there are many wonderful curricula (no, it's actually not pretentious. Curriculum is a bona fide singular Latin noun. The plural is curricula.) already out there. I'll review them, and my final choice after using too many of them, tomorrow.

I have so many more resources to share, both Catholic and general. And (never start a sentence with a conjunction) I will. Next time.
Or so it said on maps in the areas where regions remained filled with unknowns! I have always loved that phrase, just as have always loved looking at maps! Happily, maps make a great accompaniment to your notebooking pages. Some companies include some maps with their pages, but for my money (most of which has been spent on homeschooling supplies - can't you tell?), it's best to have a separate and comprehensive set of maps that you can use for your history/geography studies and for your notebooking both.

There are several companies that produce great sets of maps. I own one fabulous set, and I am about to break down and buy another one. I was first introduced to these maps when I was using Tapestry of Grace. (Much more on Tapestry in another post) They are fabulous! Each set includes a student map (no answers) and a teacher map (the appropriate geographical features filled in). You can buy sets of maps broken down by historical period or you can choose, as I did, to buy the entire set. I have used these maps, and can attest to their incredibly high quality. Sadly, I am a fickle product lover, and one of my favorite companies just came out with its own set of maps!

Home School in the Woods just announced the release of its own set of maps , and they are truly works of art. This company produces such quality products. I own their timeline figures, and I have never seen anything quite so unique, with so many applications. I am really trying to exercise self-restraint, and not buy their maps. We'll see how long that lasts.

Whichever maps you use - free maps from the internet, maps included with sets of notebooking pages, or one of the sets from these great companies - make sure you actually use them! It's one thing to collect wonderous resources and store them on your compuer; it's another to actually see that they are used (please don't feel that I'm talking down to you or preaching to you here - I'm really lecturing myself!).

Up next, a discussion on handwriting: fonts, programs, likes and dislikes. It's a subject on which some homeschoolers feel passionate, and others couldn't care less. As with all things, though, I have a strong opinion!
Notebooking is all the rage with many homeschoolers. Perhaps you're an avid devotee of notebooking already. Perhaps you've never tried it, but have heard of it and would like to get started. Perhaps you navigated to this page by mistake, in which case simply utitlizing the "back" button on your browser should remedy the error nicely!

Now then, there are numerous sources for notebooking pages available on the Internet, and there are untold methods for engaging in the activity itself. One of notebooking's best features is that there is no right or wrong way of going about it. Another great feature is that you are almost never too young to start. It is helpful to be able to write a little, but beginning notebookers can very heavily supplement with artwork, and then grow into more advanced writing. Many companies who produce notebooking pages overlap in content (after all, the Pre-Dynastic period in Egyptian history is the Pre-Dynastic period in Egyptian history), but the style of various companies can vary quite a bit. Thus, it is helpful to examine each company's style (most companies have free samples available online) before purchasing any pages. That way, you're sure to get what you want! Alternatively, you could follow my fiscally irresponsible example, and simply buy just about one of everything. That way, you are prepared for any notebooking emergency that could arise. Hey, it could happen!

Before I share my favorite sites with you, allow me to answer the question you are probably asking? What on earth *is* notebooking? What does it look like? How do I do it? Okay, allow the great folks behind the notebooking lens on Squidoo to answer these questions for you: http://www.squidoo.com/notebooking. I dare you not to ache to notebook after spending ten minutes on this site. When you're done, though, come back to me for my recommendations!

Back so soon? Are you sure saw everything? The last time I went to that site, I forgot to make dinner! In any case, there are obviously tons of options. Most are very reasonably priced (and you can always make your own; I just can't expend that much effort on something that's already been done so well - and so many times!). I have some definite favorites, though, beginning with...

  • http://www.historyscribe.com/ This company doesn't make a bad product. Each of their products is "leveled", meaning that you can use the same product with every member of your homeschool, each at her own level. There are pages with grammar lines (the ones with the dashed line in the middle, appropriate for beginning writers), with regular lines, and, my favorite, the "History Scholar" pages, which I would describe as directed notebooking. It's hard to explain, but so well worth checking out. The bonus? Their sets are an amazing half-off right now. No, I don't get a commission. Yes, I own everything they make.

  • http://www.notebookingpages.com/index.php?page=b2school09 Another great source for every kind of notebooking page you could desire. While there is some overlap in content (again, history is history as far as dates and periods and personalities go), Debra's approach is different than that of the Scribe system. The emphasis is less on drawing (although there is certainly room for it on many of her pages), and there are more pages that are appropriate exclusively for younger children. Once again, I own everything she's created. Once again, everything on her site is half-off right now!

  • http://notebookingnook.blogspot.com/ Betsy's pages are similar to Debra's but different enough that, yes, I have all of them (I dearly hope no one has a calculator out at this point!). The thing I love most about Notebooking Nook is the abundance of coloring pages sprinkled throughout the regular notebooking pages. They are intricate enough to interest my "big kids", but Romula and Remus are still delighted to be able to add to their notebooks as well! Oh, and right now they're on sale!

  • http://www.holdthatthought.com/ This company is, I'll confess, new to me! I'm very excited by what I see on their site, though. I'll admit that I shy away from "cartoony" notebooking pages (which is why Knowledge Box Central's won't make my list, even though they have some great products), and this company's appear to be nothing but professional. I'm particularly excited about their timelines. I only have two complete timeline sets...is that really enough? We could have a timeline crisis any day now! Anyway, I'll order, and let you know what I think. Or, if you beat me to it, you order and let me know what *you* think! Deal?
As you've noticed if you spent any time on the Squidoo site, there are tons more notebooking sites out there. There are numerous free pages, and some are quite good. I am, though, an all-or-nothing girl. I like full sets. Have you noticed? I also like continuity. I truly do think that the companies listed above are the best of the best. Spend some time on their sites, look at their free samples, and decide if their products are right for your notebooking needs. Only don't spend too much time deciding - there are some great back-to-school deals right now!

Finally, you'll need something to bind all of those notebook pages together. Yes, a three-ring binder will do the job. You could even invest in a Pro-Click P50 binding system, a favorite of many notebookers.

Hmmm...looks kind of small for all of the notebooking you'll be doing. May I recommend one of the permanent residents of our schoolroom? This bad boy is a binding machine!

For its price, it does an amazing job, and it's super easy to add and remove pages. It might be just the thing for a homeschooling group to purchase together if the price exceeds the budget of your family.

Perhaps you're left wondering if lapbooks are anything like notebooks. Aaahh, there I can't help you, for lapbooks involve cutting and pasting, and that, my good friends, I do not do!

Okay, as yesterday's teaser indicated, if you homeschool you've been asked these questions. If you don't homeschool, you've either asked them -- or wanted to! Just for fun, let's do this Jeopardy style: I won't write the questions, just the answers. See if you can guess the questions! Also just for fun, I'll write two answers. The first will be the answer that I usually give. The second will be the answer that is usually running through my head.

1. It's not that hard teaching multiple grade levels at once! Really, my children are all so close in age that it works out great! Are you kidding? Yes it's hard! My eight year old is two grade levels ahead of where she should be, and my six year old is one up, but they both have the attitudes appropriate to their ages, so where does that leave me? And can you imagine trying to wrangle a six year old and two four year olds even on a good day??

2. There's nothing wrong with public schools - really! That's just not the option that we've chosen for our family. In fact, I got a phenomenonal K-12 education, right here in this district! Get real. Let's just leave it at that.

3. But our children are socialized! Our daughters have dance classes, and our sons play baseball pretty much year-round. Beyond that, they have friends with whom they play. Just look at them! Obviously they know how to interact with people :) So which kind of socializing are we talking about exactly? The learning of off-color language in elementary school? An unnatural devotion to products of the Disney marketing machine (and I ain't talkin' about the princesses here). Maybe we're talking about high school, okay junior high,and exposure to sex and drugs...all of that socializing, I think we can do without.

4. Actually, you don't need a degree in Education to teach your own children. First of all, the materials available today are so phenomenal that just about anyone can teach her children at home (and boy would I love to share a few sites with you!). Second, if you talk to any teacher about what they actually learn in college as an Education major, you'll find that much of their coursework deals with things like classroom management, small group skills, etc. Finally, who cares more about your children's education than you? Please - that old saw again? I have nothing but respect for the vast majority of teachers. They are overworked, underpaid, and vastly underappreciated, and it is NOT their fault that the education system in this country is hopelessly broken. I know too many teachers who wish that they could homeschool their own children! I even know a couple of homeschoolers whose spouses are teachers! You truly don't need any special education: you just need to love your children, and to be willing to put in the time and effort.

5. I really don't think that the possibility of missing prom is a reason not to homeschool. Besides, we can hold our own prom. We actually do have a homeschool group... Because prom is so critical a rite of passage that I would send my children to school for that sole experience? Hmmm...let me think back to my own prom. Wait, I didn't go. I wasn't asked. My senior year my boyfriend was in the Navy. Darn government wouldn't give him leave. I *did* go to his prom when I was a junior. I don't remember having that great a time. I did, however, have a tame time. From what I appreciate, I don't think that my experience was typical. I think we'll just stick with my plan and homeschool. Plus, I'm pretty sure there are dances in college. I seem to recall a few (to which I didn't go, because God was good enough to drop a husband in my lap my first weekend in college. It kind of obviated the (need? desire? point?) for/of college dances). I digress.

Please feel free to send me your own homeschooling questions if I have not addressed them here. I know there are more; these are just my favorites. Oh, and if your kids go to public school, please don't be offended. I really did get a top-notch public school education, and it really just isn't the right choice for our family :)
I have an aversion to the idea of blogs; many people who know me know that about me. So why am I blogging? Because I like to read them - especially the funny ones that relate to my life. I have been told that my life is funny, and that the events in my life and family make other people feel better about their own lives. Hmmmm....I can never tell if this is supposed to make me feel good or bad about myself.

In any case, my life is funny. My challenge: recognizing the humor, rather than focusing on the sheer "aaaaahhhhhhhhaaahahahaha" factor of my daily existence. Granted, I don't get the jaw dropping reaction that I once did when I was able to tell people, "I have four kids under the age of 3 1/2", but we still have a four-ring circus. To wit - I give you the cast of characters:

Zeus is the head of our family. I have been married to him for 13 1/2 years, since the day after my twenty-first birthday (quick, do the math...I'm old - but he's six years older. Cradle robber.). He is the Ricky to my Lucy, in more ways than one!

Persephone is our oldest daughter, an eight-year old who aspires to the religious life. She loves to read, write, and knit while watching old movies (actually, go ahead and pencil in this description for me as well!). She is very sensitive, much like her patron saint. Actually, I pray rather regularly that her patron saint will assist her in outgrowing this sensitivity, much as she herself did. I am waiting, dear St. ___. Whenever you're ready to put in a good word to our dear Lord... Seriously, though, I could not do it without Persephone. She is chief game organizer, playwrite, and all around cruise director for all the youngers. She's a lot like me, but much prettier, thinner, and more socially acceptable!

Achilles is our oldest son, a sly-witted six-year old. He teeters on the edge between little boyhood and young manhood. One minute he cries out of frustration, and the next minute he makes me laugh, as he accuses me of talking "fissy talk" to the Jack-in-the-Box guy (I can only assume he was accusing me of flirting with the kid over a free taco coupon. I firmly deny all charges). Achilles is obsessed with Legos and toy soldiers, and can make a ball out of any halfway round object. He is also the definition of kindness to younger children, particularly to the two below.

Romula is the female half of our set of twins. She and Remus are 17 months younger than Achilles (making them 4 1/2). Romula was born for the stage. We often lament the fact that we have ethics and feel a sense of responsibility toward our children, because we could make a fortune off of this child. With curly hair and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose, plus a flair for drama that makes us both laugh and sigh with dismay daily, Romula is a trip. Example: one of Persephone's recent projects was teaching Romula that it is, in fact, better to be good than it is to be beautiful. We think she understands. Sort of.

Remus is Romula's other half. In every way. He is peanut butter to her jelly, and chocolate to her vanilla. Until very recently, he was my baby boy. Of late, he has developed a temper. I have no idea where he could have gotten it (ahem!), but he is definitely growing up. He is the child on whom I can always (usually) count to obey, and who rarely gives me (much) trouble. He always has a smile for everyone, and never met a stranger.

Me? I'm Hera. I am mother to this brood. I am a Roman Catholic. I homeschool (keep up with our homeschooling here:
http://salve-regina-homeschool-academy.blogspot.com/). I have a Ph.D. that I never use, and a Great Books undergraduate education that is my constant friend and companion. I work from home as a freelance writer and editor, and I have a couple of neat projects in the pipeline, which I hope to start bringing to fruition later this year. In my next post, I'll answer some of those burning questions about homeschooling. If you homeschool, you've heard them. If you don't, you've asked them. Some of the answers might surprise you!