Sunday, May 27, 2018

Have You Considered Enthroning Your Home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Two weeks ago, we were blessed to join friends for an evening rosary and visit shortly after they began hosting beautiful statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as part of the process of enthroning their home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Then, this past Friday, we were delighted to go celebrate a special Mass in their home for the enthronement, where my son and his friend were altar servers for a wonderful Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate who presided over the Mass.

The Mass, enthronement ceremony, and social time afterwards were quite heartwarming as friends, neighbors, and the Men of the Sacred Hearts and their wives gathered together sharing faith and fellowship.

Source: Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

One day, I hope to enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in my own home.  If you would like to do so as well, contact the Men of the Sacred Hearts.

Monday, May 21, 2018

5 (Last-Minute) Ways to Celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church - A New Universal Feast Day

Have you heard?  Earlier this yearthe Pope decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church will be universally celebrated in the Roman Calender on the day after Pentecost.

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If you'd like to celebrate this feast day day in your own Domestic Church, here are a handful of ideas we'll be enjoying.

(1) Challenge Ourselves to Be More Like Mama Mary

Fr. John A. Hardon wrote a wonderful article at The Real Presence Association about Mary, Mother of the Church. In it, he shared three ideas for how each of us might ideas pattern our lives after Mary and her maternal love, which I will be presenting to my children with this dual-challenge:

  • Might we stay alert to one another's needs today, and act in haste to come to one another's aid?
  • Who do we know who is suffering physically or spiritually right now and what can we do right now to help alleviate their pain?

We will also pray the beautiful prayer that Fr. John A. Hardon shared in his article, and, late in the day, use ideas from it as a part of a bedtime examen of sorts:

  • Did I extend loving and tender sympathy to others who might have needed it today? 
  • Were my thoughts kind? 
  • Was my speech gentle?
  • Did I remain patient and cheerful? 

We will also spend some time early in the day doing a 3-minute retreat from Loyola Press based on a verse from the Lectionary for the day 

(2) Read about The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother

We have a stack of books about Mary in our home - any of which could do for this new feast day.  However, in consideration of the day's Gospel (John 19: 25-34), I have selected "Hail Mary for Little Catholics" from Jesus and Mary to read.  This short, sweet story seems perfect for the day since it ends with the words, "And when Jesus died, He gave Mary to us for our mother." 

Of course, any story centered on Mary could do! 

If you do not have one handy, Loyola Press offers a free "Story of Mary" pdf under their Marian Resources.  It even has pictures to color included in it.

(3) Pray a Rosary 

Madonna Rosary Holder

Of course, there is no better prayer on a Marian feast day than the Rosary, so we'll be praying one together, perhaps focusing on the Nativity decade using pages from a lovely children's Rosary journal pdf we have called Ponder for Kids, which is also available in print and on sale both as a pdf and in print!)

We used portions of this book on the Ascension and especially enjoyed coloring the nature pages that bring images of Mary Gardens to our minds!

(4) Enjoy Faith through Food

Friends will be joining us for a simple al fresco blue, red, and white luncheon tea.  I'll set an outdoor table with a blue tablecoth, white and blue candles, flowers, and a Madonna Rosary Holder statue, and, on it, we'll lay a potluck of blue, red, and white foods, to include:

  • white tortilla chips
  • white bean dip
  • white tuna dip
  • homemade coconut ice cream
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • strawberry slices
  • coconut
  • blueberry-banana smoothies
  • red rooibis ice tea
...and whatever our friends bring.

Blue, of course, is the color most commonly associated with Mary as it is both a traditional color of empresses and also the color of the sky (or heavens). 

Red comes into play because, in some traditional artwork, Our Lady traditionally wears red - a color for nobility and those in an elevated state, as well as a color the anticipates the suffering and passion and the devotion of the heart.  (On our table, the red berries will remind us of Mary's heart.)

White, of course, represents purity.

Before eating, as we typically do when enjoying faith through food, we'll ask the children why they think we chose to put each food on the table and what each could represent, and chat/catechize from there.

(5) Make a Notebooking Page or Craft

There are many wonderful Marian notebooking pages, crafts, and activities to choose from.  This year, we plan to use a fabulous free printable notebooking/coloring page that Katie from Look to Home and be Radiant shared, because it is perfect for this day (and because I did not think ahead to get supplies for our annual mini-Mary Garden planting.  (Lucky thing Mary's month is not over yet, so there will still be time for that.)

More Ideas

We often honor Our Lady here, so please scroll past posts for other ideas about Mary, the Rosary, and other Liturgical Year posts.

Among them, some simple ideas for the feast day are:

Making a Box of Hail Mary's and praying other prayers, too.
Making Mary Baskets

Enjoying a Cookie Rosary

Painting a Marian Peg Doll

Of course, I could go on and on with ideas, but am going to stop here so I can get some sleep before early morning Mass on the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

I'd love to hear how you end up celebrating this day!

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mama Tired... and Blessed

This mama is tired.

Proud tired...

(...after directing my children and their castmates in a performance this past Friday night.)

Hopeful tired...

(...for that nasty cyst on my girlie's neck, which has been causing so much concern will finally be surgically removed - once and for all, we pray - this coming week.  Your prayers are welcome for this intention!)

Blessed tired...

(...after witnessing this boy who finally got to make his First Holy Communion and was truly beaming from it!)

Grateful tired...

(...recognizing how these three beloved gifts are growing.)

For this was just three years ago...

...and four.  

Seriously... Where does the time go?!?

And how many precious moments slip by when we are tired without us recognizing the amazing grace bestowed on us?

Too many, perhaps.

But, not this one.

Not this very present moment when I sit here looking back at a crazy busy (but blessed!) weekend and ahead at a somewhat concerning (but still surely blessed) week, recognizing God's hand in it all. 

The triumphs, the trials, the joys, the just-make-it-through moments.  Each is precious and wrapped in God's merciful love.

Ah, yes, tonight I may be tired.  Mama tired.  The kind of physical, mental, and emotional tired that is born of the ups and downs of life with children.  But, I am also refreshed.  Truly and ultimately refreshed by the wellspring of love and mercy that I know is there for me - and for you!

Our Lord is so generous in His love and mercy.  How awesome is that!?!

If you are tired, too, may you be able to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and be refreshed by the amazing love of God!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Have You Read Any of Kayla Jarmon's Books? {Review}

What a delight it was to receive three e-books by Kayla Jarmon to share with my children.

We read all three books in two sittings while looking at them as flipbooks on our computer screen.

Another day, I asked my children to re-read the books onscreen again with me, so each child could write a review of one of the books.

A Boy and His Dog

My youngest child, at seven, asked to review A Boy and His Dog.  He said:

A Boy and His Dog is a 40+ page e-book about the adventures of a boy and his dog.  It is told in pictures and words.  Each page is mostly a picture with a few sentences to a paragraph.  So, it is a quick read.
The illustrations are bright.  One was comical.  It was a dog and his boy who got covered in mud so they could not be recognized.
The story itself was okay.  It tells about the boy's and dog's daily life.  The boy has no lessons.  He just plays with his dog all day.  They are good friends. 
I think people with dogs or people who want to get dogs would like this story.  It is also good for people who like a quick story, and people that like simple illustrations.

Dog lovers and those with children who like loads of outdoor play will appreciate this book!

Don’t Forget Me (First in the Discussion Book Series)

My 10-year old daughter was eager to be the reviewer of Don’t Forget Me and even asked me if she could read it to me before she narrated her review.

She said:

Don't Forget Me is a 70-page, picture e-book. It is about a baby in the womb who gets born.  God talks to the baby and keeps reminding him, "Don't forget me."  The baby is curious, saying things like, "Why do I feel like I'm stretching"  "What's that?"  "It's getting tighter in here."  

While the baby is in the womb, we learn that his mom and dad like to talk to him, and that the baby doesn't like sad.  He also keeps telling God, "I know, I know... How could I forget you?..  I won't forget you.  You made me..." 

When the baby comes out, he's like, "Wow!  This place is so big.  It's almost too big.  Is this my new room?  Where's Mommy?"  He is given to his Mommy, his Mom and Dad pray, and they keep saying, "Shh.  Shh."  The baby says, "Hey, really, it's okay, God can hear us all at the same time."

The books is a really cool, fun book.  It has just enough words to get the story line and is mostly pictures.  The pictures are cool, because, when the baby is in the belly, it is cool to see how he grows in the belly.

It is also cool how they color the text.  The text is highlighted with different colors for different people.  God has a yellowy gold color.  The doctor and nurse have a blue color and the mom and dad have a pink color.  The baby is just regular old print.

I like this story the best of all three, and I think it would be good for kids that are just starting to begin to read, pregnant people who have other kids, and pro-life people.  The book shows how the baby grows inside the belly and celebrates life!
While the baby is in the womb, we learn that his mom and dad like to talk to him, and that the baby doesn't like sad.  He also keeps telling God, "I know, I know... How could I forget you?..  I won't forget you.  You made me..."  
When the baby comes out, he's like, "Wow!  This place is so big.  It's almost too big.  Is this my new room?  Where's Mommy?"  He is given to his Mommy, his Mom and Dad pray, and they keep saying, "Shh.  Shh."  The baby says, "Hey, really, it's okay, God can hear us all at the same time." 
The books is a really cool, fun book.  It has just enough words to get the story line and is mostly pictures.  The pictures are cool, because, when the baby is in the belly, it is cool to see how he grows in the belly. 
It is also cool how they color the text.  The text is highlighted with different colors for different people.  God has a yellowy gold color.  The doctor and nurse have a blue color and the mom and dad have a pink color.  The baby is just regular old print. 
I like this story the best of all three, and I think it would be good for kids that are just starting to begin to read, pregnant people who have other kids, and pro-life people.  The book shows how the baby grows inside the belly and celebrates life!

There are Scripture references at the back of the book, too.

Dying Is Part of This World (Second in the Discussion Book Series)

My 12 year old son decided to review this book.  He said:

Dying Is Part of This World is a 58-page, chapter e-book with a few picturesIt is a discussion between a child and his mom about death.  At the end of each chapter, there are discussion questions.  The book also has Scripture references.
I liked the illustrations in the book.  They are black and white and show everything from the kids' point of view,  and I like the drawing style.
A lot of people are scared of death, so I think the author did well to write a book like this.  She was clever in using an analogy of a baby being born onto earth and us dying and being born into Heaven.  She tried to be honest and comforting without claiming to know everything. 
I had trouble with some of the theology in the book.  When people who are not Christian die, they do not automatically go to H-e-double-hockey-sticks.  God has mercy.  If someone does not know Him, because they have not been introduced to Him, they might still get to Heaven.  The book makes it seem like only Christians can go to Heaven.
Another point I disagreed with was when she said God forbids talking to the dead.  This is not true.  Talking to the dead is just like talking to someone who is alive.  They are still part of the Universal Church and the Communion of Saints.  It is perfectly fine to talk to the dead (but be sure to know they probably are not going to answer you.)
Obviously, there are some things wrong with this book, but there are some things great with it, too.  The author is very good at getting how a kid and Mom would talk to each other and that can get real kids and parents talking about death.  
 I would not recommend listening to all of the theology in this book, but I would say it may be a good book for parents and kids to read together if they can discuss it.  Parts of it are good.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, our family has theological differences with the text of 
Dying Is Part of This World, but we all could appreciate parts of it, and I truly appreciate the author's efforts to make a tough topic easier for parents and children to discuss.  She deals with some difficult concepts well!

Overall, we enjoyed A Boy and His Dog for its simplicity, playful humor, and cuteness, but our collective favorite was Don't Forget Me. It is the one book of the three we'd appreciate a hardcopy of and would consider gifting to and sharing with friends and family who have little ones, work with children, or are active in pro-life ministry.

We have heard audio files associated with each of these books are coming, so stay tuned for them.

Learn More

Fifty Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed these books.  Find links to all the reviews the Homeschool Review Crew.

You can find Kayla Jarmon on social media at:

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Make Reading Lessons Easy with Reading Kingdom! {A Review}


Our family would like to thank Reading Kingdom for the opportunity for this review.

  • Do you have a child that likes learning online and is ready to read?
  • Have you been trying to help a developing reader move from decoding simple words to comprehending longer passages?
  • Would you like to help your 4-10 year old child move from where she is at now to reading and writing at a third grade level?
  • Are you looking for an "easy button" for independent English Language Arts learning time?

Reading Kingdom could be an ideal fit for you!

What is Reading Kingdom?

Reading Kingdom is a subscription-based online program that adapts to the skill level of your 4-10 year old child, creating a custom-tailored online learning environment that will bring your child up to a third grade level of reading and writing.

If your child is a beginning reader and uses
Reading Kingdom 4-5 times weekly, it will take about 12-15 months to complete the program.  If your child is a bit further ahead to begin with, she may master all of the skills the program presents within 3-6 months.  Or, if your child, like mine, cannot take time for ELA lessons online on a daily basis, using the program less often can still bring positive results! 

As you can see, my two youngest children - who began this round of lessons with Reading Kingdom beyond Level 1 after completing placement tests - have been using the program an average of 3.7 days per week and have each completed over 20% of the levels they are at in just a month with excellent progress.

Basically, I started each child with a 20-30 minute placement test.  Then,
Reading Kingdom placed my children at appropriate levels, and they have been doing one lesson each time they sit down with the computer, with the lessons typically take just 12-20 minutes to complete. That delights me, because I know my children are getting short, effective bursts of learning without getting too much screentime!

I also like that
Reading Kingdom tracks how my children are doing each week using a graphic-based key, so they can see how they are doing.

Plus, as I parent, I can access downloadable progress reports that tell me exactly how long my children have been spending on each lesson, how they are progressing, what words lessons are targeting, etc.  These reports are quite helpful since my children are using Reading Kingdom as designed - all on their own - and, therefore, I am not always sure how they are doing.  

What do I mean by "as designed?"  Well,
Reading Kingdom suggested that, besides giving your child some hand-over-hand mouse movement and clicking help, if needed, you do not provide your child with any aid with the program.  For the program adapts to your child's skill level and can only do that effectively with no parent coaching.  

Of course, you are welcome to sit next to your child to observe.  And,if you do so, you may be surprised to see that words like "girl" and "boy" are presented before words like "at", "cat" and "sat".  Bear with this and trust the program.  Phonics are presented.  They simply are blended with other literacy skills. 
Reading Kingdom is purposefully designed to use more than the typical letter-sound based approach that many strictly phonics-based early reading programs do.  In fact, it employs a Six Skill Integrated Method patented by Dr. Marion Blank, a world-renowned expert on literacy

The six traits that the method keys into are:

  • sequencing
  • motor skills
  • sounds
  • meaning
  • grammar
  • comprehension 

How Does the Program Work?

When your child logs onto
Reading Kingdom for the first time, an assessment comes up which determines where in the program your child will automatically be placed.  If your child cannot effectively complete a particular section of the assessment, no further questions are presented for the moment.  Rather, your child moves on to develop skills at the level indicated.  (If, however, you note that your child already has the skills necessary for a section they are automatically placed in, you can override your child's auto-placement, moving your child forward or back as you feel is necessary.)

Once placed at one of the five levels within the program, your child is presented with exercises and games in order to master skills.  These activities include multiple "books" per level, which means that by the end of the program your child will read over two dozen books independently!

Of course, between the "books",  your child will have plenty of sound, word, and typing practice.  But, not too much.  For, the software is designed to skip over words that your child can already read and "write". (The "writing" is actually keyboarding). 

The automated adjustments of the program, thus, help your child avoids drill-and-kill (as long as keyboard- or touch-screen typing are not issues) and accelerates with learning at a custom-designed pace.

Further, at the conclusion of each of the five levels of reading and writing that the program offers, a Progress Check is made.  This helps the program software to ensure that your child's reading achievements are on track.  If they are, your child moves onto the next level.  If not, your child is given a set of review activities to encourage stronger progress.

Finally, along with all the automated, individualized features of the program,
Reading Kingdom offers your child a sense of being in control of his or her own learning.  At the conclusion of lessons, there is a component that allows your child choose to do more activities or not.  This feature can motivate your child with a sense of "I know I need to learn to read, and I can determine how much reading practice I am ready for right now." 

Obviously, with all these features,
Reading Kingdom is a comprehensive program that can help your child master reading skills to a third-grade level.  It can do this as a stand-alone reading curriculum or can be used to supplement whatever approach you are already using.

Since the program works on any device with an internet connection, including Windows, Mac, iPad, Android, Chromebooks, etc., it can be used at home or on-the-go in order to help your child achieve reading success!

Our Experience

Several years ago, two of my children tried out
Reading Kingdom and were finding success with it, however, life - as it so often does - took us off course and we never finished using the program.  Thus, when an opportunity came up to review the program this year, I asked my two youngest children if they'd like to give it a try. 

They both did and have been using the program 3-4 times a week for the past month.

One of my children is at at-level learner and had this to say about

Reading Kingdom:

I use Reading Kingdom three times a week.  I log in, hit start, then do the lessons.  The lessons involve mostly typing and spelling. It's easy.  I am learning. 

I don't like that they focus on one word each lesson.  I do like that they split each lesson apart into sections and you can see where you are, so you know when the lesson will be done.

He is a compliant learner who appreciates opportunities to work on his own and, having met with success, move from online learning to play breaks!  The program works for him - and me - because it strengthens his skills on days I cannot do 1:1 learning time with him, and it also is easy, pleasant - and not too long at any one time - for him to use.

My other child that is using
Reading Kingdom has long struggled with reading and writing, yet seeks more independence during lesson times.  Thus, Reading Kingdom is offering her an opportunity to work without me, learning at her own pace, with incremental skill advances.  She has been frustrated that lessons seem to include more spelling and word work than book reading, because book reading is her ultimate goal, but she also understands that one thing builds on another.

When I asked my daughter for her thoughts for this review, she said:

I wanted to try Reading Kingdom again, because I liked it okay last time and am better at patience now.  I hoped to get a lot of reading out of it.  I want to read books and stuff and wanted this program to focus on reading.
I have used it three times a week usually, sometimes more.  I have found it is mostly spelling, so I don't know why they call it Reading Kingdom.  It should be called Spelling Kingdom.

Every lesson, there are words you focus on, and you spell them and make sentences with the words in them. 

Some lessons are like reading a book.  I have only reached one of those.

The lessons have graphics included in them, so you could call it a game.  I find the program fun, besides that when I type, sometimes, I type the right keys on the keyboard and it says I typed things wrong.  I don't know if this is a glitch with my computer, the program, or both.

Also, sometimes, they have you read things and make you wait too long to go on. 

I think Reading Kingdom has helped me some.  I can work independently with it. 

I want to still use it sometimes now that the review is over...  I think it would be good for kids who need graphics to focus and want to learn to spell and read.

Final Thoughts...

I am glad
Reading Kingdom came into our household again, because it has been offering us peaceful, consistent reading and writong skills practice and learning even when I am not available to do 1:1's with my children.  I love that lessons are tailored to each child's skill level and take only 12-20 minutes to complete.  I also appreciate that they can be done independently.  I would recommend the program to others with developing readers, especially those who struggle and enjoy learning online. 

Although neither of my children rave about
Reading Kingdom, both use it effectively and I am seeing fruit.  My youngest son is getting a steady diet of independent ELA lessons and my daughter is currently progressing with her reading and writing skills through a combination of Reading Kingdom and 1:1 lessons with me. In fact, today, when I sat down with her to read something, I was happily surprised by her increasing fluency and credit Reading Kingdom for part of her success.

I hope my children and I can stay focused enough over the next 3-6 months to keep up a habit of regularly using
Reading Kingdom, because it truly is a sound and helpful program.

I recommend
Reading Kingdom to families with developing readers or struggling ones that seek independent learning online. 
Learn More

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Sixty-five Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed Reading Kingdom or ASD Reading, which is made specifically for children on the spectrum.  Find all the reviews linked at the Homechool Review Crew.

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