Homegrown Catholics is an excellent resource for religious education teachers, homeschoolers, and parents. Here you'll see all my lesson plans and project ideas on many Catholic subjects as well as school topics. If you would like to read about my adventures as a Home Educator, click on the St. Brigid's Academy tab above.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planning to Homeschool - Year 7

  While I'm gearing up for our first day of homeschool, just a few days from now… I find myself spending hours reading, preparing, rescheduling, reprioritizing and redecorating! I'm caught in a whirlwind of thoughts and to do lists. I remember when I had just one student and each moment was spontaneous bouts of learning and fun in everyday life. Now I have three students and two little ones depending upon me to stimulate them at every hour of the day, with an obligation to present formal education materials with intermittent trips, projects and other activities. My greatest challenge is not the number of children, nor is it the curriculum. It is the coordination of myself to teach each subject at varying grade levels and varying learning styles simultaneously, while caring for young ones who just want to play with Mommy. By the Grace of God, I know it can be done.

    Our first day usually begins the day after Labor Day in September. We sleep in, attend a No School Track 'n Field Day with a local homeschool support group, then head back to take a tour of the schoolroom and our new books. We also take pictures and measure in at the height board mounted in our Laundry Room.  The days after that have varied only on what time we awoke and began the day. We got done what we could, and focused more on family time and learning from life.

   But last year, between pregnancy and new baby, and everyone's lack of enthusiasm for bookwork, we never finished our school year. I hoped that this year we'd stay on top of things and be productive.

   So this year, my color coordinated schedule has been pinpointed to the 20-minute interval of who I'm going to help and what book we're going to work on, as well as the number of pages to be completed. So much, that the very thought of an interrupting phone call, sick day or play date is freaking me out! The children have already rummaged through the new books. The schoolroom was new a few weeks ago and has already become tornado valley of toys and crayons.  I feel like my plan is already failing, and it hasn't even began. This frazzled version of me is not me!

Family Circus mom

  So I'm taking a step back today. Reflecting on the positives of prior years and how I can "integrate happiness" into our busy schedule. Is it possible to take complete chaos, organize it, and still have something enjoyable for everyone? Yes.

Planning for a Happy Homeschooling Experience:

1. Create a space that is conductive to learning and fun.
Clean up and start fresh each year. Keep things bright with windows, lighting, wall color, notebooks, decorations, maps, etc. Ask yourself, would l like to go to school here? Read my article about the Homeschool Classroom by clicking on the picture below!
Homeschool Classroom Logo - click it!

2. Measure success by the child, not the checkmarks on the schedule.

We take yearly pictures by the door, and measure on the door frame in the laundry room. The children find this their favorite part of Day 1, because "it's about them." When you ask yourself, why am I homeschooling? Answer "it's all about the children."

"Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

3. Create a schedule that integrates bookwork, activities, group time, and always      leave      spaces!

Magnets allow flexibility…
Daily Planner

See how my current spreadsheet looks more chaotic? It will be if I leave it like this.

4. Always start with prayers, Mass, and/or devotional stories. (You'll need it.)

We begin the day with a devotional story and prayer…
Morning Devotion

5. Then off to the books! Have educational materials to guide your day, not determine it.

6. Plan for Fun!
If you're making a schedule, include space in your day for other wonderful life experiences from trips, visits, fitness, clubs, etc. We'll fill in with gymnastics, field trips, 4H, family, playdates and more! Some take off one day to allow for this, but it is harder as the kids get older and have more bookwork. My plan, make it work because it's important to enjoy life now, not later.

Lake George Park DayTrack and Field Day 2011
Kids Bowl Free - Memorial DayCrystal Gardens Day1
CampfireEastman Nature Center-Bones and Skulls

Simple Homeschool Blog
10 ways to adjust your attitude when you’re homeschooling for the long haul
The worst reason to homeschool
A Day in the Life (of a homeschooler)

The Home School Mom:
  10 Reasons I'm Glad "Back to School" means Homeschooling
  Celebrating Homeschooling with a Not Back-to-School Party

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Our Homeschool Classroom

Homeschool Classroom Logo
This week I've been doing an overhaul of our homeschool classroom. You might notice it began with a change up of our blog name? Instead of St. Brigid's Academy, still our homeschool's name, our blog is all about "Homegrown Catholics."
HGC Blog Button copy
   Raising our children at home 24/7 is quite the vocation. It requires inner strength, or as we call it "God's Grace." Each child is taken as a seedling, planted and nurtured right here in our home garden. God's grace shines on us. Then God can harvest the fruit and let it sweeten the lives of others. As a child, I wore a mustard seed with a bible verse [Mark 30-32]around my neck. I pondered the fragility and potential of that little seed. What amazing potential did I have, and now what of the potential of our children!?

  So I pondered what kind of atmosphere is most conducive to learning? What do we need to make our classroom not only functional but inspiring. Where will I nourish my children's' minds and souls? My Homegrown Catholics need a place to flourish!

Welcome to St. Brigid's Academy…

First Day of School
Rather basic, table, chairs and cart for books. It was a good start for preschool. We honestly spent more time out and about than in our classroom.

Try 1
New Desk
Try 2
Schools in Session
Try 3
First Day of School - Year 5
I loved this room, as it was bright, colorful and setup for office work and school. It was functional, but because our little ones were wanting to play in other rooms, it didn't take long that everyone would wander off.
First Day of School - Year 52010-11 School Room

Try 1
HomeSchool Area
This was our just get it setup attempt. When we moved in we just put stuff down there, and it didn't work at all. It was a dark corner with too much clutter. Everyone brought their books up to the bright, kitchen table. Making it hard to have meal time.
Crazy Days

Try 2
School Room
I took some time and moved the desks to the brighter area of this large, L shaped room.  Desks didn't face each other or the toys, so there was less distractions. The open floor area gave way to wonderful playtime. But still, after awhile - the kids lost interest in sitting at their desks and just wanted to play in this great space. Desks were crowded, messy and hard to sort and find books. These desks were just not functional as I had hoped. My kids are not taking to sitting still for long periods of time. They wanted to be near me. I needed something else…

Try 3 - We are so blessed by this space.
I looked all around on the internet. Wrote down what I needed and what I liked about rooms others had. I took into consideration all the troubles we'd had from distractions, book storage and wandering.
FINALLY! Functional and Fun!
*The neutral wall color was too dark, so our "oops paint" saved the day with a soothing but bright wall color. The inspirational quote on the wall is a great reminder. Because we're Homegrown Catholics, I chose a garden theme fabric I will sew as the new valances.
Master Bdrm 2012

*Love the group learning table. Since the kids were always drawn to the kitchen table, it made sense to have one in our learning area. Everyone together with a side for me to oversee and engage interest. It wouldn't be complete without a devotional book and candle for the start of the day.

*The couch stays as a reading nook with candle. A quiet spot for reading, praying, and the occasional time out. I made the end tables myself! Our books are organized from top to bottom rows, advanced reader - learning to read - fictional stories - toddler/board books. The 10 drawer cart is my storage for art paper, stencils and artwork. I replaced the coffee table with toddler toy bins, as it is more practical. The piano is center stage for when the children or I play.

*We needed storage for all those resource and school books.  I used the top cubbies of my bookshelf for books about Art, Activities, History, Geography, Science and Language. The second row across is for the teacher manuals. The third row is student books, followed by a fourth row of student extra practice and activity books. The fifth row has bins for whatever they'd throw in a drawer, such as crayons, iPod, flashcards, v-smile games, etc. Thank you Ikea for this Expedit bookcase that saved the day.

* Play areas are more confined, but in the same room. There is a toy area, game closet, dress-up station, and reading nook. In the playhouse we built outside is the mini kitchen, outdoor and cheap toys, bubble set, some dress-up, loft getaway and misc.
101_7455Our little house in the woods

*My kids are so creative, so it was essential to have a place to clip up artwork. Some call it a "Masterpiece Wall." The plan is to have two rows, one for kids artwork and a second work for posters or printouts of the inspiring masters.

*Like our daily planner so we at least have a plan, even if we don't always follow it. My kids are always asking "What are we doing today," "Where are we going," etc. [Free download of instructions for magnet planner.]

*We have office storage near the computer desk. The upper cabinets hold stationary items, computer stuff, and art supplies. The countertop holds the printer, teacher file I can carry anywhere, and counting manipulatives. The base cabinets hold rewards, large stock paper, pc games, manipulatives such as money, word magnets and flash cards, as well as the drawer of pencils/glue sticks/rulers/erasers/misc.
The cabinet on the right holds my books, school readers, resource books, school idea binders and future school books. I'm still refining this area, and obviously some painting to be done as well!

The closet holds all things lego, playdoh, movies, games, puzzles and play clothes. The desk is positioned so I can roll right over to the table to help when needed.

Other things I like and want to possibly create:
*Old typewriter for typing practice.
*Oil drip pan as a magnet board for toddlers.
*Rain gutter book rest by bunk beds.
*Multipurpose coffee table.
*Like the painted timeline wall space. Sticky notes and images taped to the wall.
*I liked that some classrooms have learning centers around the room.

Thanks for all inspiration as posted in my Pinterest Board, especially…
A Holy Experience
Confessions of a Homeschooler

Thank you to Ikea for having excellent storage solutions, including
25 Cubbie Expedit Bookcase $199
Adel Cabinets
Play Area Rug - Lekplats $15
Deka Wire with Clips (for art) $7

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Prayer Safari - Craft Ideas

KOS Logo
   Our church's VBS program in 2012 is Kingdom of the Son: A Prayer Safari by Gospel Light. This is a fun, five day study of the "Our Father" prayer from Matthew 6. The National Catholic Register's article points to a Catholic Companion for this VBS by Liguori Publications which I have not been able to find online.

   Three of our children were attending, and there was child care for volunteers, so I decided to help out with the craft station, as I have in the past with other groups. My grudge against the typical VBS craft station is that the book's crafts go with the cute theme, such as jungle safari, but they don't incorporate the lesson they will be learning that day. And many of these VBS programs are not Catholic. These are my ideas, some new and some borrowed, which are inspired by faith AND theme. Enjoy this for your home or class prayer safari!

VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer SafariVBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer SafariVBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari

Student Handout
…with explanation of each craft's purpose. Give sheet, or cut out section for each day.
KOS Craft Station Handout

KOS Prayer Journal
A Prayer Journal, using animal print foam sheets or cardstock paper for a cover, hole punched and tied with plastic lacing or rope. Print the journal pages I created to tie into the inside.
 CLICK FOR PRAYER JOURNAL BOOKLET PRINTOUT HERE [or here for full sheet version]
VBS Crafts Samples

Print back to back pages 1&2, then 3&4 all on cardstock. Stack together and fold in half. Staple or stitch if you wish.
Coloring Book - pg1Coloring Book - pg2Coloring Book - pg3Coloring Book - pg4


God is our loving and powerful Father who listens to our prayers. Jesus taught us how to pray, including the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

Our Father windchimes
Hang your wind chimes where you can see them or make them move. When you pray, it is like your prayers are being carried on the wind up to God's ears. He listens to your prayers. When you hear the wind chimes, think of it as God speaking back to you.
Wind chimes using pony beads on a ring of pipe cleaners, tied together with yarn and wood dowels. If time, let kids color dowels with markers anything they wish or words "Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." [Similar @ Oriental Trading: Wind Chime $11.50/doz]

God Provides:  God meets all our needs, just like he fed the 5,000 people with only two fish and five loaves. We need not worry, rather pray about our needs and wants. He will answer with what He thinks is best for us. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
Fish and Loaves Basket
Set your baskets on your dining table and lay out your loaves and fish. After saying the meal prayer, pray for the intentions of others and your own. As you pray for each intention written on the loaves and fish, put the m into the basket. They also have magnets, so you could stick them on your fridge to remind you to pray whenever you see them!
     Bread = Needs of the People.
     Fish = Our personal needs, hopes, desires.
     Basket = Putting it all in God's Hands.
(Gr3-6) Weave basket using ribbon/yarn and plastic baskets. [Oriental Trading: Baskets] We had a good sample, but let the kids decide how they wanted to weave it. (GrK-2) Could use brown paper plate, cut in half and staple edge into a basket.
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer SafariVBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
(all) Cut felt or foam fish and loaves, write prayer intentions accordingly, glue/stick on magnets. We precut the foam to save time. While we encouraged the children to write vague categories of prayer, some insisted on writing specifics.
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer SafariVBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari

God forgives us our sins whenever we are sorry and ask for forgiveness. Jesus taught us how to ask for forgiveness and how to forgive others. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
Wipes away my sins board - fingerprintsWipes away my sins board
You are going to make a dry erase board to remember that no matter how dirty our souls get from sin, God is there ready to forgive us when we are sorry. Through confession, He wipes away those sins, leaving a white, spotless soul. “God wipes away our sins.”
Mark and wipe board project (God forgives and wipes our sins away). White paper with Memory Verse printed on it. Let kids decorate with animal stickers, stamps or drawing/coloring. Could glue to thin cardboard for sturdiness. Then you cover that with glossy, clear laminate (found in kitchen drawer liner section). If using a smaller size paper, you can use a laminating machine, like we did. That creates your mark & wipe board. Add string to hang or leave as placemat. Be sure to give each child a dry erase or washable marker so they can use it found at the Dollar Tree 4/$1!
 VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer SafariVBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
Made my own stamps with zoo foam stickers on foam sheet.

HAND & FOOT PRINT ANIMALS - designed by me!
Foot GiraffeHand ElephantHand LionFoot Hippo
Thumbprint drawing ideas by me, too!
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
VBS Crafts Samples

Even the Son of God was tempted by Satan, and Jesus overcame the temptation to sin. God protects us from sin with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and graces from the Holy Sacraments. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!”
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari

KOS Protective Folder
Your folder will be decorated to remind you that God gives us ways to protect ourselves from sin. Bring it with you to school, so you can share this great message with your friends!
VBS 2012 Kingdom of the Son Prayer Safari
Decorate a sheet of clear laminate with tissue paper, leaving a sticky edge border. Flip over onto a folder, white or yellow works best. Decorate with permanent markers and stickers!
VBS Crafts Samples
Suncatcher version: Cut 9x11 sheet of clear laminate, add to sticky side black paper frame and black paper animal cutouts. Then add squares of colored tissue paper. (No glue mess). Advise to add a final layer of contact paper to seal it in. On front write "God Rules!" with permanent marker. Tape onto window at home!
Stained Glass

“For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory - Now and Forever! Amen.” God is great, and we need to let Him know that we want to know, love and serve Him in all we do. To remember this fun and faith filled week - pray the Our Father prayer as often as possible., which is on your picture frame.

Our Father Prayer Card 4x6
The last day we usually get the prints of our group photo. My co-leader found some paper frames online. We had the children put the photos in, glue on the above printout of the Our Father prayer, and then decorate and have friends sign their names on the back. It was like yearbook day!

Thank you so much for checking out my crafts this week. We had fun sharing God’s love for you in a creative way. Everyone who participated in creating these projects did so artistically, and we hope you will enjoy them for a long time!

Here is a full printout of ideas I came up with before deciding on those above.
Craft Ideas Book Cover

The Catholic Toolbox: Our Father Prayer Lesson Plan

Liguori posts these FAQs:
How can I find a solid Catholic VBS?
Here’s what to look for:
  • Bible lessons have an imprimatur.
  • Scripture verses come from a Catholic version of the Bible.
  • Catechism citations are listed in the course overview so you can quickly see which Catholic teachings the program supports.
  • Catholic sacraments and teachings are integrated into the lessons.
How important is the theme?
  • The theme—a camp, a treasure hunt, the beach—is important, but not as important as the biblical and Catholic content.
Where can I find a Catholic VBS Program?

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