Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Announcing: The Coralean Islands!

Exciting news: Gianna has a new novel out! The Coralean Islands is the second book in her Four Red Banners series. (She published the first book, Four Red Banners, a couple years ago.)

I honestly enjoyed this story even more than the last. It picks up where Four Red Banners left off but centers on the royal brothers. Here's the book description:

The Coralean Islands have been suddenly attacked by an enemy neighbor, and King Colan and his army are headed to defend their territory. But deeper trouble than war awaits them there. Colan and his cousin Marius have a serious quarrel that threatens once again to divide loyalties throughout the army. Meanwhile the Acrosians become trapped in a ravine, and as the enemy begins to surround them, Prince Hector makes a weighty decision that he hopes will end both the quarrel and the war. But it has consequences he didn't expect, not only for himself but for everyone he loves.

You can find it on Amazon!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Catholic History and Religion :: 2023-24 School Year

It's my annual post on our Catholic history and religion for the upcoming school year!

Below you'll find lots of Catholic supplements for medieval and modern history, which is what we'll be studying the coming year with the CMEC. As usual, I have also included some Bible and religion resources I'll be using and links to recommendations from years past.

This post is organized into the following categories: Bible for all Forms, Catholic Historical Supplements for Forms 1-3, Religion for Forms 1-3, and Catholic Historical Supplements and Religion for Forms 4 & 5 (High School).

Previous' years plans:

This is my LAST post in the four years' history rotation. Soon I'm planning to create separate pages on the site to house these resources for future years -- and to be a place I can update as I come across great new books!



Lower Forms

For Old Testament, my students in Form 1-3 will be reading through parts of Samuel and Kings. For New Testament, my students in Forms 1 and 2 will read the Gospel of Matthew. As I have explained before, the CMEC follows the PNEU in scheduling Paterson-Smyth's books as a resource for Bible lessons, so I will be using his volumes on these sections for my preparation as well (Prophets and Kings and Saint Matthew). I don't agree with everything he writes, but he offers good "captain ideas" for Bible lessons that get at the over-arching themes of the assigned Bible texts.

I like to take his suggestions in light of Catholic resources; for this, I often rely on Knecht's A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. This tome (it's a thick one!) provides a Catholic perspective on both Old and New Testaments: historical background, theological and doctrinal connections, notes for personal application. I have used it in various ways over the past few years and always with good results. It also includes a few nice images and diagrams helpful for Book of Centuries work.

Upper Forms

For Old Testament, my high schoolers will be reading through some of the minor prophets this year: Amos, Hosea, and Micah. We will have a few commentary resources on hand:
  • Dummelow's One-Volume Bible Commentary - We have used this PNEU-recommended commentary for the past few years. My kids appreciate the historical details it includes on each book. (This is the new edition -- we have an older used one.)
  • I will be previewing the Navarre volume on The Minor Prophets for their reference as well.
  • We also draw on the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent whenever my kids have a question they'd like to explore further.

For New Testament, they will have two streams of reading. First, Form 3 and up will be reading the gospels alongside Charlotte Mason's Saviour of the WorldSecond, they'll be reading the epistles to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. I like the short introductions to each epistle from Catholic Answers as well as the Dummlow linked above. (I have been previewing additional commentaries but don't think they are necessary for these epistles. However, if you have a favorite classic commentary written by a saint to recommend, let me know! For example, we loved St. Robert Bellarmine's Commentary on the Psalms last year.)

All Forms

In all our Bible lessons, we will be reading directly from our favorite translation, the Douay-Rheims. Each of my Upper Forms students has his or her own copy to use, and I use mine for the younger kids. 

We rely often on The Dore Bible Illustrations. I have used this volume for years and it so handy to have these scenes so reverently and beautifully illustrated all in one place!

As a side note: our TBG Songbooks from Riverbend Press include the Bible passages for the year in the King James Version, so I print ours in the Douay-Rheims and tape it in for our recitations. And for the terms that schedule a hymn we have already covered, we will work on reciting the additional verses of that hymn but also add in a Latin hymn to learn.



This coming year, we will be studying roughly 1900-present. My Form 2A and 3 students will also be studying the Middle Ages in Europe for their general history stream.


There are many great options for saint biographies for these time periods! My Form 1 students will read a couple easier biographies from the list below; when they come around to this period again in Form 2 or 3, they will have the chance to read the others. My Form 2 and 3 students have 1-2 biographies assigned each term, depending on age and ability. Ideally, the Form 2A and 3 kids to have one medieval and one modern saint to read about each term. The rest will go on their free read shelf. 

A few notes on the list: The books below have been ordered by series/difficulty level. This list is not meant to be comprehensive; it is just what I have on my shelves or have purchased for this year's studies! Also, Form 3 students who are strong readers may also like some of the options under High School.

Windeatt series: 

Vision series: 

F.A. Forbes series: Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Athanasius, Pope St. Pius X (better for Form 3)

Other books:

Historical Fiction

I like to add some Catholic historical fiction to the free read shelf when able. A few for this year:

Other Notes on Form 1-3 History

For the Middle Ages, Christine Miller's The Story of the Middle Ages is the CMEC's recommended spine. The nice thing about this text is that it provides a broader view, covering the history of much of Europe (not just England). I read this book with my students four years ago and don't recall anything problematic for Catholic families but will add notes here if I encounter anything worth a caution.

Similarly, our assigned American history texts for these Forms for the modern period (Builders of Our Country, The Landmark History of the American People, and Land of Hope) do not present issues for Catholics.



Catechetical Instruction

This year, I will be continuing a study of the Mass with my Form 1 and 2 students and preparation for Confirmation with my Form 3 and 4 students. See the post from last year for the resources we are using!

My Form 3 and 4 students will also be reading Knox's The Mass in Slow Motion, which was a big favorite of my older kids at this age! (Note: I have a different version than the one linked. Mine is a poorly-done reprint with lots of typos; I'm hoping this one is perhaps better?) I also have O'Sullivan's All about the Angels on the shelf for my Form 3 student since he hasn't read it yet.

We will be also reading from Children's Retreats by Reverend Halpin, which unfortunately seems to be out of print. I plan for my Form 1 and 2 students to read the Confession and Communion chapters and my Form 3 and 4 students the Confirmation chapters, but I may end up reading it aloud over breakfast with everyone.

Spiritual Reading and Liturgical Year (read as a family over meals)

This year, we will continue A Character Calendarwhich has been a favorite with my younger students. I will also be reading from Mother Loyola's "With the Church" series, which has been my personal reading for the past year. I am excited to share some of my favorite parts with the children.

I also plan to read from Mother Loyola's Trust, a new-to-us title. We have loved everything Mother Loyola wrote and I'm hoping this book will be another winner!



This year, I will have two seniors (Form 5) and one freshman (Form 4). My seniors have read so much and are also so much older, so there are some things I will be assigning all my high schoolers together and others that make more sense for me to assign separately. You will see notes to that end below.

As always, please preview the books listed below before handing to your high schoolers.

History Texts

In addition to the CMEC's high school history texts, I add a weekly Catholic history block to my high schoolers' timetable.

The main text for all my high schoolers this year will be Laux's Church History. Even in this one-volume history text, the Middle Ages makes up a large chunk of it (pp. 192-409, or about eight pages weekly). But it is more condensed than the volume and a half of Carroll's series that covers this time period, and I think my seniors will like Laux's style more than Carroll's. (My Form 4 student will focus just on the medieval era in her Catholic history reading, so this will be her only assigned text.)

My Form 5 students can handle a bit more reading and will benefit from a broader view in this their senior year, so they will add the following:
  • One chapter per term from Belloc's Europe and the Faith
  • A bit of reading on the history of the modern era in the Church at the end of Term 3 (not sure yet, but currently planning to assign about thirty pages from Vidmar's The Catholic Church Through the Ages -- not a big fan of his take on it, but I already have it on the shelf and it will make for good conversation with my students)
  • On the free read shelf because they love Belloc: the rest of Europe and the FaithThe Great Heresies (will tie together their history from the past four years), and The Crusades

Catholic Literature (tied to this year's history studies)

These will go in their leisure reading time. Some selections for this year:

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Spiritual Classics (tied to this year's history studies)

Some of these will be for Sunday reading, some for leisure reading, some just optional.
As a note: the biographies listed for Form 3 by Ann Ball and F.A. Forbes would also make great reading for a high school student.

Catechetical Reading (tied to this year's history studies)

My Form 4 student is preparing for her Confirmation, as mentioned above, so this reading is just for my Form 5 students. This will be slotted for Sunday reading and includes some from the Middle Ages and some from the modern era:
  • Aquinas's Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas's Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica (they have been begging to read some of the Summa, so I thought this would be a good option -- it's still quite long, though, so they likely won't read the whole thing)
  • I also plan to have them read an encyclical each term, which is something they have not done yet. I wanted to choose ones that would be both historically important and clarifying about some aspect of the Faith or the Church's position today. I am currently planning on Aeterni Patris by Leo XIII, Pascendi Dominici Gregis by Pope Pius X, and Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI.
  • Last in this section, I wanted to have them read some short works by the Early Church Fathers. Ideally I would like a compilation volume, but every one I have previewed so far has been too much (very long, multiple volumes) or not enough (mostly descriptions of the Fathers rather than the works themselvees). If you have recommendations, please let me know!

Devotional Reading (not tied to this year's history studies)

This includes Advent reading, Lent reading, daily spiritual reading for their personal devotional time, additional reading for the free read shelf, etc.


I hope this helps those studying these time periods with us this fall!

Any wonderful books I should add to the list above? Let me know in the comments!

(Amazon links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wrapping Up the 2022-23 School Year

The last time I posted here was last summer -- which means a whole school year has flown by! I thought I'd take the chance to share some highlights from the year before moving in to the next one.

But before I jump in: a few family updates...

This year, I had two in each Form: Gianna and Vincent in Form 5, Catherine and Xavier in Form 3, Bridget and Clara in Form 2, Andrew and Justin in Form 1 (and Damien and Emilia in Kinderleben!). It really worked out well having the students paired so neatly this year -- not only did it save me prep time, but my students always had someone to work with when desired.

And further, one thing I really like about the concept of Forms for the larger family is that although students are combined, students aren't forever paired with the same sibling. Depending on the year, they are sometimes with younger siblings, sometimes with older siblings; sometimes they are the youngest in a Form, and sometimes the oldest. I find this annual adjustment helps keep the dynamics fresh and gives the students a chance to strengthen different skills.

The other big family update this year: Baby Matthew Campion! Preparing for and recovering from his arrival was certainly a big part of our homeschool. He arrived the day before Epiphany.

So I planned a very light third term for Forms 1 and 2 and a semi-light term for Form 3. My high schoolers were bascially able to go back to their full schedule after our couple weeks off together. Even with a rocky postpartum time, we ended our school year on strong footing thanks to the CMEC, my wonderfully helpful husband, and rails of habit laid down over the past decade.

That said, I was SUPER relieved to head into summertime! It's so nice to have a break from juggling baby and lessons. Matthew is now five months old -- rolling, babbling, and starting to sleep through the night. And by the time we begin school again in August, he'll be napping more predictably, which will be a huge help!

On to the recap! It wasn't a perfect year by any means, but at the CMEC, we always like to take stock of signs of definite progress and celebrate our "wins." So I thought I'd share here five things that went really well this past year...

Studying history collaboratively and comparatively.

This year we studied roughly 1780-1900 (for all Forms) and Ancient Rome (for Form 2A and up). 

First: I love that my students are all studying the same time periods. It makes my mental workload much simpler and I feel like I can really "live" in the eras as a teacher of many grades.

Second, I'm grateful for fantastic books! American history was fascinating in all the books we read this year -- Builders of Our Country, This Country of Ours, and The Oxford History of the American People. Each one was rich and engaging for the age group it was aimed at. My Form 1 boys were sad for each chapter in Builders to end, and I often heard my high schoolers laugh out loud at Morison's witty, pointed insights. British history was great too: it's hard to beat Arnold-Forster!

And although it was interesting last year reading about the founding of the American government alongside Ancient Greece, I was surprised to find so many connections this year between the Civil War and Ancient Rome. Comparative history makes for rich studies and lots of good history notebook work.

Using the high schoolers' literature as my own leisure reading.

I have talked so much here about pre-reading as schole and teaching with the posture of a student that it is likely cliche! But pregnancy/postpartum meant limited prep time for me this year, and the only leisure reading I really did was my kids' books (plus some Agatha Christie over Christmas break!). Particular favorites for me were Uncle Tom's CabinSilas MarnerA Tale of Two CitiesOedipus and AntigoneSesame and Lilies, and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. 

I am grateful my teacher prep can also be so enriching.

Participating in our Charlotte Mason-style co-op.

Last year was our first year with an academic co-op and not just a nature study club. (You can read about our fall term and spring term.) We continued with the same families this year and the CMEC as our guide, but took it indoors this year -- my friend hosted us in her home. Just like last year, we took up a different set of subjects each term and swapped teaching duties. Our spring term also looked quite different because instead of meeting every other week, we met for seven weeks in a row (with a couple weeks off in the middle for Easter). This allowed us to start a bit later (I was on a postpartum break) but still end on time and still meet for six meetings plus our end-of-term celebration. It has been so nice to take up different parts of the "feast" together.

It was a lovely year together. So many subjects: Plutarch, heraldry, choir, The Trumpet of the Swan, music theory, hymns and folksongs, recitation, architecture, folk dancing, singing games, chalk drawing, solfege, drill, brush drawing, and more! In the fall, we included a moms' time to meet and discuss a Parents' Review article while the kids played, which was really nice as well. 

I love teaching the kids -- I think all of us do! And I am grateful to have found committed, kind, and thoughtful moms to partner with. They have become dear friends.

Outsourcing subjects to my older kids.

Isn't it wonderful when your children surpass you in skills?! My high school daughter's Italian is now much better than mine, and my middle school daughter is excellent at needlework, so I paid them this year to teach their younger siblings.

For Italian: It was time to break up my Form 1-3 students into two groups for Italian. Last year, I taught everyone together twice a week and then taught the Form 3 students an additional weekly block or two for Italian dictation, copywork, and grammar. This year, Gianna offered to teach the older three kids and I taught the younger three students. Lessons went much more smoothly (smaller groups, everyone working at an appropriate level) and teaching just the littles was really enjoyable for me.

For handicrafts: Catherine used the CMEC's needlecraft course over the year to help her younger siblings learn new stitches and complete a variety of projects. In addition to teaching the 30-minute weekly block on the schedule, she was responsible for letting me know what supplies were needed, assigning each student "homework" to work on over the week, and helping them with that homework as needed. This set up worked so well that she is continuing with the three younger boys (ages 8, 7, and 5) over the summer.

We are planning to continue this arrangement next year too -- I am trying to take advantage of the help before Gianna graduates and I lose one of my "team teachers." :)

Preparing postpartum timetables for an easier transition.

This one was on the advice of a dear friend. I had thought I might just play it by ear after the baby arrived, taking it as easy as needed and eventually scaling up to our regular timetable bit by bit. A friend who knows me better than I know myself (ha!) convinced me that putting the time in before baby arrived to create a super-light timetable for our postpartum term would lead to smoother days and a more restful term. And it would give me an excuse to truly take it easy and not try to get back to regular lessons just so we could have a plan to follow.

I actually made two light timetables: one that was really bare bones (basically just readings and Common Subjects), and one that added back in math and a couple other subjects as well. 

We ended up taking two weeks fully off before starting Term 3, then following our bare-bones timetable for six weeks and our other light timetable for the last few weeks of the term. I had planned to get back to our full schedule by the end of the year, but that didn't happen -- I needed more time to recover. And I was completely fine with that, since I had a great plan for the family that made sure we still sampled a wide feast.

So that's some wins from our year! A few more photos from our 22-23 studies to wrap up...

final Plutarch project for co-op

clay work from model

sweet Burgess narration

we loved studying Millais!

geography with Form 1

grammar review with Form 2 and 3 kids

Form 1 Buckley notebook work

Form 2 written narration

one week of Weekly Paintings

And now -- I'm deep in planning for the fall! I'll be adding a formal student (Damien will be in Form 1B) and will have two seniors, so it promises to be a year full of first, lasts, and excitement!

So what were the "wins" from your year -- favorite books or subjects, best tips, things you loved about your homeschool?