Sunday, April 29, 2018

4 Things to Take Home from a Retreat

This weekend I did something I've never done since becoming a Mom: I went away on a retreat: the first annual Catholics Online retreat hosted at the picturesque Mount St. Mary's Abbey, home of a beautiful community of Cisterican nuns and the delicious Trappistine Quality Candy they make.

training happy hearts

At the end of the retreat, as I sat quietly for a moment in one of the beautifully appointed, yet oh so comfortable, sitting rooms of the McMahon Retreat House, I looked across the room and saw this vignette.


Immediately, my eyes were drawn to a statue of Mary that reached out to me from a corner table.  I gazed at it for some moments and, then, closed my eyes seeing Mama Mary - so pure, so gentle, hands folded in prayer, a gentle smile playing on her lips as she emanated peace.  

I thought to myself how lucky we all are to have Mary, our Mother, Queen of Heaven, praying for us, doling out graces, compelling us to model after her ready “yes” and her abundant love. 
I recognized how Our Lady guides me in my own motherhood and how important it is for me, as a mother, to take quiet moments like the one I was in the midst of to allow myself to be refreshed, basking in God’s divine love.

I knew one gift I would leave the retreat with - peace.


My eyes then fell to a light that sat below the statue of Mary: a simple one with a cross design that reminded me of Christ and his sacrifice for us while also pointing my thoughts towards the Resurrection. Jesus Christ gone for the cross, risen, and loving us for all eternity.  

In gratitude I sat, thanking God for his mercy and for the hope he offers to each of us every single day if we just turn towards him.  I also thought of the enormous sacrifice he made for us and the small sacrifices my family made which allowed me to go on the retreat.

I wondered what sacrifices I might be called to make in the coming week - and knew I was going home with a heart welling to make them.


Finally, my eyes moved towards a vase of flowers.  On the vase was painted a simple blooming branch with a yellow-bellied, orange-capped bird on it – open mouthed,  singing with the glory of God, echoing with delight at all the Creator blesses us with.

As beautiful as the birdsong I was hearing in mind was were the flowers that burst with joy from the mouth of vase.  Some were just budding, others were open in their full glory.  Each held individual interest and - together - their collective beauty was striking.

As I gazed at the flowers, I thought of each of the speakers and participants of the retreat weekend that I had been blessed to spend time with throughout the weekend.  Each brought unique talent or stories to share; each had made sacrifices to be a part of the retreat; and, all, I prayed, would be returning home filled with a renewed spirit to balance home life and a desire to go out into the world sharing talents serving the Lord through joyful and consistent work. 

Then, I thought about the individuals I was going home to – my children and my husband.  Each growing with unique gifts.  Each inviting me to grow as a wife and mother.


With the gifts of internal peace, a willingness to sacrifice, and a desire to grow tucked into my heart, I left the sitting room of the McMahon House and went to rejoin others for the final hour of our retreat.  Then, as I put my things in my minivan to take home, I made sure to tuck in some physical gifts, too - chocolate!

The nuns at the the abbey make the most delicious chocolate which can buy in their gift shop or order online to enjoy. My children have already devoured all the chocolate I brought home!

Peace, sacrifice, growth... chocolate!  These are all gifts I brought home from my weekend retreat.  What gifts have you received this weekend and what can you gift forward?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Get a FREE Printable Holy Eucharist Game Set!

If you've got children preparing for First Holy Communion this year or ones who are studying the Eucharist, this simple Holy Eucharist Bingo/Game Cards/Copywork set might be a help to you.

{Martianne Stanger/Training Happy Hearts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to}

I made this free printable to go along with the glossary in a beautiful book called 
The Little Caterpillar that Finds Jesus: A Parable of the Eucharist,.  However, the game set can be used on its own, too.
The first page of the set contains 16 pictures from Wikipedia Commons which represent different words related to the Eucharist and Mass.  The second page has 16 corresponding words on it, typed in a font that uses primary lines so children can easily use the words as copywork.

To play Bingo with the set, have children cut out the cards and put them into four random rows of four.  Then, call out the words an have the children turn their cards over until someone get a Bingo line of turned over cards.

To play Go Fish or Memory Match have children cut out the picture and word cards and, if desired, affix them to cardstock so they won't be see-through, then play the games as usual.

To play Two Finger Touch lay all picture cards face up and have children race to touch with two fingers whatever card you describe.  For example, if you said, "I see a picture of the sacrament which washes away original sin and makes us children of God and members of His family, the Church,"  children would race to touch the picture of Baptism.

Be aware that some of the pictures could represent more than one word, so it might be good to print out a "key" set of cards that you do not cut apart.

Enjoy this FREE printable, and, if you have an extra copy of 
The Little Caterpillar that Finds Jesus: A Parable of the Eucharist laying around, please consider selling it or gifting it to me!  I'd love to own my own copy!

Earlier this year, a friend lent me her copy of The Little Caterpillar that Finds Jesus: A Parable of the Eucharist and I have found that the book truly is a treasure - but, unfortunately, one that is no longer in print, and, therefore, not inexpensive enough for my family to purchase at this time.

The Little Caterpillar that Finds Jesus: A Parable of the Eucharist, a caterpillar named Gloriana is transformed when she is introduced to the wondrous events that surround the Eucharist.  As children hear her story, they are reminded of Baptism, God's love, Adoration, stories of Jesus, and more all while learning about the mystery of love found in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in receiving and adoring the Holy Eucharist.

Expressive illustrations and well-written text (in both English and Spanish) draw readers and listeners into the parable, which, in turn, focuses on the heart of the Mass - the Eucharist!

The book, of course, is perfect for children preparing for First Holy Communion - like my little guy and some of his friend are doing - but it is also wonderful for older children. I shared it with children I am teaching in a co-op class this year, who are ages 3-8, who all enjoyed it.  My 10 and 12 year old like it, too.

We used the free printable I am sharing today to review concepts after reading The Little Caterpillar that Finds Jesus: A Parable of the Eucharist in co-op class I've been teaching.  The children all had a lot of fun with it, and one of the moms from co-op was also psyched I had used a copywork font for the words so she could extend learning at home.  I hope you are just as pleased with this free printable!

Enjoy helping children learn about the Holy Eucharist through play!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Learn Human Anatomy and Physiology with Apologia {A Review}

{This post contains affiliate links to Apologia, whose products we've come to know, enjoy, and recommend.}

If you are looking for a faith-connected science curriculum that works for multiple learning and homeschool styles, take a peak at Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology by Apologia!  It's a wonderful curriculum we've been blessed to review and are looking forward to continuing to use.

What Comes with Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology and How Did We Use it?

We received one copy of:

Together, these make a complete science curriculum package which makes learning easy, engaging, and multi-sensory for children at a K-6 grade level.  The curriculum also makes things adaptable for homeschool parents.  Seriously, not only do I like the actual science presented in 
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology, but I also appreciate that we can tap into learning in our minivan, at home, individually, or as a family group, using the different components of the curriculum.

In fact, since we have been out of the house so much this spring, my children's first introduction to Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology  was with the audio CD.  One morning, before leaving for co-op, I simply grabbed the CD, and after praying our morning prayers in our minivan, we began science lessons for the day.

As soon as my children heard the beginning of the CD, they became excited.  They remembered the Astronomy curriculum we'd reviewed before - the very same one they've referred to materials from multiple times since - and knew immediately that this  Human Anatomy and Physiology 
one would be good.

We were not disappointed!  The narrator's voice was clear and pleasant; the materials presented was easy to understand; and, each time we paused the CD to share what we'd been learning, we all had something to say.  So, we all were quite satisfied with our introduction to Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology !

(I will add as an aside here, however, that Apologia does not suggest using the CD without the Student Text, but rather, to use the two resources together, so that developing readers and auditory learners can benefit from the visual images in the text in the fluency of the CD.  We adapted their advice by listening to the CD first and, then, at home, reviewing the text and diving into the journals.) 

As happened when we reviewed the Astronomy set, my oldest claimed our Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal as his own and was given free reign to do whichever activities in it he wished.  

He started with a science-terms crossword puzzle, but, then, quickly took a break and went onto the faith-based copywork pages.  These captured his attention - praise God! - he took off with them.

Oddly, my oldest does not typically like writing by hand - much less writing neatly by hand - but there is something about the copywork in Apologia Notebooking Journals that makes him choose to write.  In fact, he's already finished almost every one of copywork pages in the Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal even though we have yet to complete the rest of all 14 corresponding lessons!  I'll happily take that!

I will also delight in the fact that the 
Notebooking Journal offers more:

  • a suggested lesson schedule (which we obviously do not adhere to, but which could come in handy for homeschoolers who are not as relaxed and eclectic as we are)
  • notebooking pages (that invite students to enjoy graphics and fill in boxes, ellipses, lines, etc.)
  • lapbook-style activities (which are ideal for hands-on learners)
  • places to record project notes (thereby helping students synthesize learning from experiments and activities)
  • puzzles (for kids who love crosswords and such)
  • and more (including Book and DVD suggestions, which I love having on hand)

I had planned to let my youngest son enjoy our Junior Notebooking Journal, because my middle child has been needing more time and focus for other lessons.  However, when my daughter saw the journal, she asked if she could use it.  So, it became hers.

The Junior Notebooking Journal is much like its counterpart Notebooking Journalbut it is designed for use by children at K-2 skill level.  It entices learners with:

  • coloring pages (which connect anatomy, physiology, and God's word)
  • primary writing lines (which make writing easier)
  • easy vocabulary activities (to help solidify understanding of new words in fun ways)
  • lapbook-like activities (which my daughter enjoys!)
  • room to take notes and draw pictures  (on well-designed and inviting pages)
  • and more!

The Student Text that goes along with the CD and journals is filled with:

  • a full-color layout (which captures my children's attention, but, which one child, wished had wider margins or narrower blocks of texts)
  • 14 lessons updated with current scientific data (but written from a faith-connected angle)
  • Biblical wisdom (with Scripture woven right into lessons without being overbearing)
  • diagrams and photogpaphs (which draw my children)
  • callout boxes (which invite children to "try this", getting hands-on with learning)
  • a list of all materials needed to complete lessons (things for "Try This" sections - all f which we found pretty standard supplies we had at home or could easily attain)
  • and more!

Our Thoughts on the Program

Anything we have explored with Apologia in the past has impressed us, including another of their science programs, and   Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology   has followed suit. We've been enjoying learning with the Student TextNotebooking Journal,  Junior Notebooking Journal, and - our favorite part  - the Audio CD, and love that we did not have work hard to find ways to fit these review materials into our busy schedule, since the variety and design of components made learning natural and relaxed for us.

Pop a CD in, pick up a journal, open a book, enjoy experiential learning...  Do as little or as much as a day allows.  That's how we roll, and Apologia makes it easy for us to embrace such a style. (They also make it easy for families that prefer structured lessons and/or hands-on experiments to feel 100% at home with the curriculum.)

I can happily recommend  Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology  as a faith-connected, easy-to-use approach filled with learning that elementary-aged children (and their parents!) can enjoy.

My children have all told me they'd recommend it, too.

Specifically, my seven-year-old had this to say:

I like the CD.  It makes it easy to learn in the car.  I also like how it tells you about things in the body - like the trashman in the cells.  It makes it easier to imagine.  I also like how it tells you what things look like. 

Sometimes, I go back to the book and look at what we heard on the CD. So, I like the book, too.

My twelve-year-old said:

I used the Anatomy Notebooking Journal and I like the copywork.  It comes in both cursive and printing, so depending on the day I can choose one or the other, or do both.

I also like the CD.  It is easy to listen to and learn from.  I've been learning new things.
My ten-year-old had this to say:
I really like Exploring Creation because I am not great at reading textbooks and it comes with a CD!  So, it is really handy when we go on car rides.  So, I can listen to the CD's and, at home, we can do the journal and experiments.

I have never really been into cells and stuff like that, but now I am really into cells! 

I have drawn some on my own and done hands on projects from the journal. 

The ones of the human body are really cool.  I want to do the rest of them!

I've had fun listening to theories that people made before we had the technology we have now.  It sounds so funny.  It also talked about how God told people how to deal with certain sicknesses and we still use some of the methods today.  I like how the book uses science and faith together, because most books like these don't incorporate God, but God is the most detailed artist in the world.  I couldn't make a cell like He did!

I cannot wait to do all of the rest of the experiments and I hope I learn a lot more.

Mot certainly, Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology has captured each of my children's attention, and I am truly grateful for the way the curriculum makes learning so accessible and adaptable - reaching each individual child's learning style.

Learn More



You can find samples from each of the 
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology  components on the 
Apologia  website.

Curious about other Apologia products?

Apologia offers a full line of faith-centered materials for students and parents, several of which we have been  blessed to review.  Click through the images below to see what we thought of some of the ones we have tried out.

Want to get social?

Find Apologia on Social Media at:

What do others think?

Seventy-five Homeschool Review Crew families were generously given Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology for review.  Click through the banner above to see how each used the program.

Have you been looking for an engaging, faith-connected science program that you an use at home and on the go? Apologia Exploring Creation is just that!

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dyslexia and God's Grace

This morning, as I held one of my children, helping him calm down after a meltdown and repeating in my mind over and over, "God did not give me this child without giving me the graces to parent him," another one of my children asked, "Mom, do you ever blog about special needs?"

"Yes," I replied.  "I used to a lot, but I don't as much as anymore."

My child paused, then inquired, "Did people ever read those posts?"

"Yes.  Sure they did.  I just stopped writing about it all so much, because..." 

I was going to continue, "..I did not want to share too much about the challenges you guys have as you grow, because you don't appreciate that," but, before I had a chance to, my daughter smiled and said, "Mom, do you think I could write about dyslexia?"

I paused, surprised, but then replied, "Yes."

"Could I start today?"

"Um, ya..." I wondered if the child in my lap would calm enough for me to focus on the desire of the child in front of me.

Praise God.  The child in my lap did calm down, and the afternoon unfolded with me helping my daughter begin her new mission: helping people understand dyslexia.

As my daughter dictated what she wished to say in her opening blog post, joyful tears overflowed from my eyes.

"Mom, you are crying!" my youngest - who had come to see what Big Sister and I were doing - giggled.  (He knows how sappy I get and finds it amusing.)

"Are you okay, Mom?" my empathetic daughter asked.

"Yes, I am." I smiled at her. "I am just happy. Remember how mad you sometimes get if you hear me mention dyslexia? I am just happy you want to share about it now and help other people. Thank you."

And, thank God. Prayers answered. Home reset. Hearts for helping in action.

My daughter just finished picking the themes and fonts for her new blog and reading to me the post she had dictated.  As she stumbled when reading her own words, she laughed (yes, laughed!) and asked if she could comment, "
I had trouble reading my own blog post. LOL. I can dictate it, but not read every word of it."

This made me laugh, too - with such gratitude.  So often, when my daughter stumbles over reading she feels crestfallen and cries.

One day, God-willing - she won't have such trouble.  Until that day, though, we will be all right.  For God knows our struggles and our gifts and He always gives us grace and strength to embrace both.

Please enjoy my daughter's inaugural post: I Am Dyslexic, Too!

I am so grateful that she has chosen to see her dyslexia as a gift and, in turn, to gift forward her struggles and successes.  I am also bowled over by God's grace.

I have no doubt that graces received from Mass this morning helped get my family through our day so far, and I pray your family is bathed in grace for whatever challenges or celebrations you are faced with right now.

God does not make mistakes.  Sometimes, it just takes us all a while to figure out how struggles can become gifts that glorify Him

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Music Appreciation Made Easy - and Thorough! {A Memoria Press Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor compensated in any other way.
Some links may be affiliate ones.

Picture children listening intently to music, giggling as they act out a winter scene in response to what they hearing.  This is exactly what happened in my living room during Lesson 2 of Music Appreciation I by Memoria Press, a curriculum we've been happy to review. 

What Is Memoria Press?

Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces simple, effective, easy-to-use Classical Christian curriculum for all ages.  Since Memoria Press was founded by Cheryl Lowe in 1994, it has exploded with popularity among home educators and private schools and continues to develop new materials - like Music Appreciation I - which focus students on the rich tradition of classical education. 

Materials that 
Memoria Press has developed in the classical style, my family has found, need not be pigeon-holed just for classical educators, however.  My family leans toward a more eclectic, relaxed style, and has found Memoria Press materials can dovetail with - and even direct - our studies beautifully at times.

What is Music Appreciation I?


Music Appreciation I is an easy, yet thorough, introduction to music appreciation that is targeted to grade 3-6, but can be used by older children and adults, too.  The curriculum comes as a 137-page softcover book and 2-CD set that takes you -mostly chronologically - through a series of pieces from the canon of Western classical music, offering historical context and introducing musical concepts including:

  • forms
  • melody
  • theme
  • rhythm
  • harmony
  • notes
  • syncopation
  • motif
  • meter
  • measure

and more.  In doing so, the curriculum guides you towards a fuller understanding of the inner workings of select pieces of classical music.  It also offers an introduction to (or review of) specific composers and musical time periods, giving you an overview of the evolution of Western music.

To use the curriculum, you need no prior musical knowledge of musical theory since concepts are introduced little by little and you need not know how to read music nor play an instrument either, since all the musical scores contained in the book are available as audio files.  (If, however, you do know how to play an instrument, you an use the scores in the book to play examples instead of listening to them on CD!)

Each lesson in the book is typically ordered in the same basic format:

  • Listen: where you listen to select pieces offered as free links from Youtube or Spotify on the Memoria Press website and/or listen to portions of these pieces on the CD's that come with the curriculum.
  • A Little History: where you can read background connected to specific musical pieces, including details about about the lives of composers/musicians, the time period the piece was composed during, why the piece may have been composed, or what was going on in history that played a significant role in the piece.
  • Musical Concept: where you listen to specific tracks on the CD's (or play selections from the score included in the text), get introduced to vocabulary and concepts, and take baby steps in analyzing music.
  • About the Piece: where you learn even more details about a piece.
  • Music History: where you learn a bit about the period the piece was composed during.
  • Facts to Remember: where you find a quick numbered list to review what was taught in the lesson.
  • Listen Again:  where you listen to the music again with specific prompts of what to listen for.

Included in the back of the book are review tests (with answer keys) that can be completed after every four lessons.

How Did We Use Music Appreciation I?

 Music Appreciation I could not have come at a more opportune time for me as life circumstances have recently demanded that I spend fewer hours planning and preparing learning experiences for my children, while my desire to offer them a rich and deep bounty of truth and beauty has remained strong.

On the music front, the disparity between my time budget and the my ability to offer forays in quality music appreciation was becoming more and more evident before I was introduced to
Music Appreciation I
For, between past family studies and an Art-Music-Poetry (AMP) club I have been leading for my children and some or our friends for several years, I had already offered all of the rudimentary knowledge of music I possess and had also cycled through a wide variety of favored classical music CD's and picture books.  Thus, in order to offer new or deeper music appreciation material to my children, I was finding myself having to invest more and more time, which, as I already said, just has not been there for me.

Thus, I was thrilled with the opportunity to begin Music Appreciation I
with my children.  It has made music appreciation so easy!  I simply get my laptop and the book and go with it!

We listen to key musical pieces using handy links on the Memoria Press website.  Then, we read the history narrative in the book - which we have found is helping us review past learning from our AMP club.   Then, we learn and chat about musical concepts listening to CD tracks that key us right into examples of the concepts.  We read a bit more, listen a bit more, sometimes dance or pretend to conduct, and, at other times, go off on tangents, making connections with the music and history, prior learning, and our own lives.  And, we do all this without me having to curry about collecting resources, pre-learning concepts, etc. 

Music Appreciation I is truly open-and-go, and, thus, allows me to spend time learning alongside my children, connecting with them instead of planning and prepping.  I like that!  My children do, too.

My seven year old said:

I like all the different styles of learning in one - that you can read or listen to reading, hear songs, look at the music notes in the book all together.

My ten year old said: 

I liked this music appreciation curriculum, because I like how it comes with the CD and the books.  The CD's have sections of the songs they want you to hear.  I like that because it helps us focus.  For example, at one point, we were listening to the Four Seasons and could hear the instruments going back and forth almost like talking to each other.  It was really fun!  We were dancing to it.  Then, we heard the whole song with the links we got. 
I am learning new stuff about how music is put together and reviewing about composer and periods.
I also like how they took a simple song in the first lesson - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star- and changed it into a lesson to find the beats and form.

I want to keep on using this.

When it was time to write this review, my twelve year old was not up for commenting, however, I can recall some of his comments over the course of time we have been using  Music Appreciation I
so far:

At first, he looked at the book and said, "It is a boring old text book," or something akin to that, because he has an aversion to anything that appears textbook-y or workbook-y, which, the Music Appreciation book admittedly does.

However, once we began using the book, he found himself moving to music, and laughing, sometimes with friends, when we opted to share a lesson or two with our AMP friends. I also witnessed him catching onto concepts quickly.  The guided listening helped him - and all of us really - go deeper into the way music is put together, appreciating nuances and concepts more.

My oldest is also my voracious reader, so as we read narratives in the book aloud, he readily connected what we were reading to facts he had heard and read before.  This proved to me that the book makes as good an introduction as it does a review. 

All of my children and I have found ourselves learning concepts and coming to a deeper understanding of music even though we are not even a quarter of the way into Music Appreciation I.  Thus, I do not hesitate it recommending this resource if you and yours would also like to go deeper into music appreciation but do not have a lot of time to invest.  With Music Appreciation I  you do not need to know a lot about music theory, nor do you need to dedicate time to prep.  Instead, uou can just get right into listening, reading, and learning - deepening your appreciation for the Western canon of classical music. 

Truly, the only complaints we had about the materials were my oldest son's initial aversion to the "schooly" look of the book (which I already mentioned and which he got over); my daughter's and my surprise that the CD's do not contain whole pieces of music, but rather key snippets which pertain to concepts taught (which we quickly realized was quite handy since having just select portions of music meant there was no fussing about trying to find the exact part of a piece to listen to as an example of a specific musical concept; plus, we could listen to whole pieces on the handy links offered for free to all on Memoria Press when we wanted); and my own confusion when I popped the CD's into my laptop and realized that the way my laptop numbered the tracks and the way they are numbered in the book were different (which was easy enough to work around).  These minor "issues" were far outweighed by the ease, expertise, and entertaining forays into music that Music Appreciation I offers!  Our family will continue to deepen our musical knowledge and appreciation using this 
Memoria Press resource.

Learn More

Samples of
Music Appreciation I (which sells for $23.90) are available.

I typically include more personal photos in my reviews and am sorry I could not this time due to a computer-camera glitch I was having as I wrote this review.  However, I know some of the other
80 Homeschool Review Crew families that chose to try out Music Appreciation I or one of the following 
Memoria Press curricula took and shared personal photos, so do take a peak at their reviews if you like to see snapshots of book pages and families using  wide variety of Latin, Language, and Music materials!

Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}

Connect with Memoria Press on social media.


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