Sunday, September 15, 2019

The FREE Museum of Family Prayer Has Opened!

Great news!

The Museum of Family Prayer had its grand opening today and will now be open Wednesdays through Sundays with FREE admission and parking, so you can visit any time you are in the area.

Image may contain: text that says 'MUSEUM OF FAMILY PRAYER'

I truly encourage you to do so for
a unique, interactive, digital experience of prayer that your entire family can experience together with thanks to Holy Cross Family Ministries.

Holy Cross Family Ministries

While at the Museum and Chapel, you can enjoy formal prayer opportunities by partaking in the Rosary, Mass, the Sacrament of Reconcilation Wednesdays through Friday or  Holy Hour for families on Fridays. 

Additionally, any time you are at the Museum, you can pray and reflect in front of various statues, make a visit to the burial site of the Venerable Patrick Peyton...

...pray the Rosary on your own at the outdoor Rosary Path, or picnic and walk on the lovely grounds.

My family was blessed to have a sneak peak of the Museum of Family Prayer before it opened and thoroughly enjoyed our day with celebrating the Grand Opening today.

God blessed us with a beautiful day for it!

Mass, a Eucharistic Procession, blessing prayers, and concert were lovely.

The food trucks were a hit with my kids.

Food hit the spot.

And treats were thoroughly enjoyed.

Fellowship was had.

And, of course, the Museum itself was welcoming and inviting.

You can learn about Venerable Patrick Peyton, famous for the saying, the family that prays together, stays together."

Exhibits explain prayer and invite you to pray in different ways.

Interactive magnetic, digital, and listening displays engage all ages.

Artifacts are available for viewing.

And, touch screens offer different people's thoughts in prayer (even, much to my daughter's amusement, a clip from her mom...)

There is also Family Rosary Crusade memorabilia on display.

And opportunities to write out and share prayers.

History of prayer, encouragement to pray, even a children's/family room... It's all there...

And lovely grounds are, too.

Of course, all the "extras" of food trucks, tents, balloons, gift bags, etc. that were there today won't be available every day the Museum is open. 

However, every Wednesday through Sunday(excluding some holidays), families can enjoy the Museum of Family Prayer - a true gem of a place to spend faith-filled family time.

Welcoming staff, engaging exhibits, lovely grounds, plenty of opportunities and spaces to pray... You can appreciate them all at the Museum of Family Prayer!

So, do consider a visit to explore what prayer means to others and what it can mean to you.

You may also choose to
volunteer with the museum or become a supporter.

Venerable Patrick Peyton, pray for us.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Write First-Rate Persuasive Essays {A BetterRhetor Review}

My oldest child has no current plans to go to college, yet has decided he would like to start his high school studies early and to compete with a speech and debate team this year. Thus, when an opportunity to revieCollege-Ready Writing Essentials™ from BetterRhetor came up - even though my is several years "too young" for the program's target age, he said he would like to try it.

I agreed to support my son's desire, since we both figured that using BetterRhetor would help him gain skills for the long run while framing an essay that might double as the basis for his competitive platform speech this year.

I also hoped
 College-Ready Writing Essentials™ would offer my son structure, flexibility, and top-notch teaching as he gains more skills to put into his personal writing toolkit. For, while I could help him improve his writing prowess myself, he does not want me to do so.

My son has articulated that this year he would like to learn from the that books he reads, online programs, or "teachers besides Mom". So, I am trying to support that and BetterRhetor is helping me to do so.

What is 
College-Ready Writing Essentials™?

College-Ready Writing Essentials™ from BetterRhetor is a self-guided online resource with lifetime access that is targeted to high school juniors and seniors and recent high school grads, which can also be helpful for sophomores who would like to run through the program once now and, perhaps, again, as seniors.

The program, developed by William Bryant, PhD, is offered in the form of two paid packages: Full or Premium (with the main difference being that, with the Premium package Dr. Bryant, offers personal essay feedback).

Both packages take you through 25 lessons initially designed to be completed within five weeks. However, with lifetime access to the self-paced platform, families at home can follow the step-by-step instructions to develop a first-rate academic persuasive essay at whatever speed life and learning allow. This is good news for homeschool families like mine that have a child who is young for the program, but desires to try it or for those that have children with special needs or simply have a life that often takes turns which temporarily derail planned studies. (Yes, I am still referring to families like mine.)

With the lifetime access, 
College-Ready Writing Essentials™ certainly offers flexibility and sound teaching. These are true plusses of what BetterRhetor has to offer in my book!

My Son's Experience

As I said, my son is several years "young" for 
College-Ready Writing Essentials™, but wanted to give it a go. So, right from the start, we knew he'd take the course at a much slower pace.

He has been doing so, and this is what he has to say:

I saw this and was like 'Yes! more credits!?' (I want to finish high school early.)
For, of course, BetterRhetor gives you credits, but it also teaches you how to write persuasive essays. 
Though BetterRhetor is not the most exciting course, it does some things extremely well. 
For one, it does not assign you uninteresting topics to write about. Instead, it allows you to choose your own topics - an extremely helpful thing since I am in a speech and debate club. 
For another, it does not have you write out multi-paragraph essays for each lesson. Rather, you focus on developing one main essay using an easy step-by-step platform. 
Finally, it is concise. It does not use an extensive amount of adjectives to describe a simple and sometimes unnecessary point that no one can use or care about - which is what I sometimes do. Instead, it guides you directly, giving you something concrete to do with each lesson. 
I have worked on BetterRhetor consistently and, though I sometimes find myself drifting to other thoughts, I understand that BetterRhetor is a valuable tool toward helping my future. So, I draw my attention back and do the next thing. 
That means I need to read and watch the material...

Then, download the next assignment...

and complete it.

 This process is challenging for me, because I have an extremely short attention span, that probably, if it were put out on a table, would not even make a few inches, and each lesson takes at least 30 minutes. So, often, I stop a lesson midway and get back to it.

So, I warn you now that BetterRhetor is only for those ready to embark on a long and hard, but rewarding journey. For simple is not always easy.  
BetterRhetor is simple to use, but hard to finish. It teaches challenging skills and does it well 

As you can see, my son has struggled with stepping up to high school level with his focus and skills, but desires to do so and, thus, persists in his efforts. He has not had a easy time with BetterRhetor and is going through the program much more slowly than a typical student would, but we both agree that the program is a quality one and will be fruitful for him in the long-run as it tpresents
  • 25 step-by-step lessons
  • targeted exercises and worksheets
  • strategies, models, and examples of writing
  • links to helpful resources
  • a reference sheet of key terms and phrases
  • a discussion forum and interactive comments
  • a certificate of completion (to prove he's earned that credit he so wants!)

We both recommend the program to any high school level student that needs to level up with writing skills. (There is a 30-day money back guarantee.)

Learn More

Thirty-one Homeschool Review Crew families have had children working on writing using BetterRhetorRead about their experiences moving towards student success with college readiness and academic writing.

Read all the reviews.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Celebrate the Nativity of Mary in Minutes

 When life keeps throwing you curve balls and balanced time management seems an unachievable goal...

When all you have is a corner of your kitchen table and a few minutes to put something together...

You might toss a blue table cloth over that corner of your table, take a pint of dairy-free vanilla "ice cream", put it on a plate with a bunch of blueberries, place a candle in it, and set a candle with the Blessed Virgin Mary behind it...

 Minutes later, you might call your crew to the kitchen...

... where you might sing "Happy Birthday" to Mama Mary...

... and, then, you might ask your children: What gift might you offer Mama Mary this week in honor of her birthday?

"I will be patient and try not to yell..." one of your children might pipe up.

"I will be good at stuff and help others be good, too." Another will smile and reach to dig in.

"I will build my muscles... to be strong and defend people... and pray a Hail Mary every day," a third child might share.

Finally, your husband, your children, and you might polish off the "cake" in mere minutes, and, then, you might smile, thinking:
Mama Mary... Immaculate Mary... dearest Queen of Heaven, you know how much of a struggle some days on earth can be. Yet, you also know what love and grace are available every day in abundance if we just remember to say "Yes" to God as you did. May we follow your lead.

Happy birthday, dear Mary.

Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Add Music Appreciation to Your Homeschool Day with Living Books {A Zeezok Review}

If you seek to add music appreciation to your homeschool feast and enjoy living books, cross-curricula connections, and open-and-go easeMusic Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades, from Zeezok Publishing is well worth looking into.

Our family was blessed to be introduced to Zeezoks elementary curriculum a few years ago, and, although, life and schooling took some turns and we never finished doing all the lessons in it formally, we have continually drawn on the living books, lapbook materials, CD's, and student book materials when studying different composers, time periods, musical periods, etc. - always finding the material top notch and helpful.

Learn about the Elementary Curriculum

In fac
Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades became a resource that has earned rather permanent housing on my typically ever-changing living room homeschool shelves and is one I consistently tell friends about.

Thus, I was thrilled when an opportunity to review 
Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing came up a number of weeks ago. In fact, I was so excited I changed my summer plans to make room for the review.

You see, I knew our summer would be busy, and that I still wanted to prioritize outdoor time and summer fun amidst the busyness, so I had been planning to keep our summer lessons to a bare minimum: a bit of math, a bit of writing, and some free reading with no other formal studies. But when the opportunity arose to review Zeezok's Middle Grades curriculum my intentions got tweaked.

I like Zeezok Music Appreciation materials so much that I did not want to miss out on receiving the 
Middle Grades curriculum and, so, Music Appreciation was added to our summer.

Luckily, the material in Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades is presented in such a way that it is just as easy to dip in and out of it, studying Music Appreciation in a relaxed sort of way as it is to go whole-hog with them.

So, for our summer studies, our approach was comfy and casual.  At one time, we would gather with one of the living books - beginning with the Chopin early years one - and have a cozy read aloud together.  At another, we would open the student book and read an excerpt...

answer some comprehension questions orally...

 browse things we'd dive deeper into or try later...

or have one of us actually sit with a pencil in hand to approach things more traditionally.

In doing so, we were able to begin to take advantage of all the wonderful learning Zeezok Publishing's Middle Grades curriculum has to offer in a somewhat organic to summer way.

And, let me tell you, the curriculum offers A LOT!

We received a wonderful stack of living books by Opal Wheeler, some softcover, some hardcover, and one e-book.  (I
f you order the package, you would get all physical books, though.

  • Fredric Chopin, Early
  • Frederic Chopin, Later Years
  • Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
  • Adventures of Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray
  • The Young Brahms
  • The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky 
  • Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines

Each of these books was a different length, and all of them follow the same pattern of telling you about a composer's life with through an engaging narrative and rich vocabulary, with some black-and-white illustrations thrown in.

We also received a 300+-page softcover workbook with perforated, 3-hole punch pages that have QR Codes that take you to related music selections, videos and more online. The online additions are also accessible through a website for those like me that do not have a phone that can read QR codes.

The workbook is open-and-go is brings the living books collection from simply a charming stack of stories to read to a full on Music Appreciation curriculum.

There is a Scope and Sequence that easily shows you what you will be studying - including standards for Creating, Performing, and Responding.

There are weekly outlines of what you'll study, with activities that support national Music Appreciation standards conveniently starred so those that want to skip some things but be certain to key into standards can easily do so.

Then, there is everything else:

  • Comprehension Questions
  • Tidbits of Interest
  • Character Qualities
  • Vocabulary to Learn
  • Cues for Listening
  • Music Theory
  • Timelines
  • History, Geography, Etiquette, Life, Culture, and More (all connected to the composers studied)
  • Quizzes
  • Journaling Prompts
  • Lapbooking Cues (These point out where to tie in a Lapbook component that can be purchased separately go along with the Book 2 Collection. There is a composer Coloring Book available, too.)
  • Answer Keys

There are even recipes to try for those that want to.

Indeed, the curriculum is a complete one for Music Appreciation and also ties in to other areas of study, which is only fitting since music, in and of itself, is a part of the greater fabric of beauty, truth, and goodness that make up life!

It is just fantastic and I happily recommend it to anyone with middle school children, elementary school children who enjoy stories, and even high school students who wish to earn part of a music credit (with some small additions, I plan to offer this option to my son who is beginning his freshman year of studies.) It is "meaty" enough for deep, connected learning, organized enough for an older student to open-and-go with it, flexible enough for relaxed family learning for those who like to pick and choose portions, and delightful enough to enamor those like me who love living books and do not have a ton of musical knowledge to extend them without the help of a well-written student activity book like authors Elizabeth Tanner and Judy Wilcox created forMusic Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing 

 Read all the reviews!
See what others thought.

Sixty Homeschool Review Crew families have been blessed to review and share about Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing. Read all the reviews.

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Serving with the Saints: Make a Blessing Box for Saint Teresa of Calcutta's Feast Day

Got a box? Some art supplies? A friend in need?

Then, might I suggest that you and yours get together to make a blessing box for a friend or family in need as you observe St. Teresa of Calcutta's feast day on September 5?

We did this last year and it was a simple success. 

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To begin, I introduced St. Teresa's quote of 
 "I am in pencil in God's hand" and suggested we write loving messages and draw happy pictures for a friend in need and then fill a "box of blessings" with these messages and more.

The "more" can be anything you think the friend or family in need could use.

In our case, the recipient of our blessing box was a dear family whose youngest child, a baby, had unexpectedly undergone two heart su
rgeries within a month, rocking the entire family's world.

No photo description available.

The family asked for 
nothing but prayers and well wishes, which, of course, were offered by many. However, as St. Teresa of Calcutta's feast day neared and we thought about in our local circles might need some extra love and help, we all agreed that that family might be buoyed up practical helps along with the prayer power they were already receiving.

Thus, I put word out that anyone in our local homeschool community who would like to make or donate anything to a Blessing Box for them could get it to me right up until the date of our St. Teresa of Calcutta gathering, and, then, at the gathering, we'd put our Blessing Box together, which I would drop off to the family in need.

I encouraged people to offer whatever they could that might bless our friends and let the now they are loved and prayed for and passed along the following Blessing Box filler idea list

  • happy notes and pictures
  • spiritual bouquets
  • change for vending machines at the hospital
  • healthy,nourishing shelf-stable snacks and drinks
  • fruits and other nourishing, easy-to-pack-and-eat foods
  • gas gift cards
  • small baby toys
  • fun things for the older sibling to use at home or at the hospital to keep them busy and make them feel special, too - coloring books, not-too-messy-craft kits, books, etc.
  • healthy lunch items and afterschool snack items for for the older siblings to make Mom and Dad's lives a little easier
  • monetary donations
  • food gift cards and gift baskets (with information specific to the hospital policy on gift baskets, gift cards, food vouchers, etc.)
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People dropped items off at my home beforehand and others brought things to our gathering, where the children enjoyed decorating and filling the Blessing Box, which we later delivered to the family in need.

The children in that family dug into the box immediately and the Mom was touched and grateful. 

Our mission - to be pencils in God's hand writing messages of love by serving someone close to us in spiritual and practical ways - was met.  

Today, I pass this idea forward with a prayer that it might inspire you and your children to serve within your own community circle, blessing someone close to you.

May you and yours be blessed and bless others, too, as you reach out with simple service!


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