Monday, July 28, 2014

Redirecting you to the new Catholic Schoolhouse website!

Redirecting you to the new Catholic Schoolhouse website!
Please visit us at:

Thank you!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Challenge your older students with games!

A great game to play to reward your older students for studying at home is Jeopardy! Well, not completely...we have modified it somewhat to encourage participation from all, even the most timid, as well as give everyone a chance to answer.

Our game board looks like this.

Print the number cards, or make your own. This one was made from tag board and cardstock--I don't know if it will make it through the whole year. Maybe next year a cloth and laminate...Hmm the possibilities.

We begin with just questions from Week 1.

Then, each week new questions are added. A few old ones are left in so no one gets soft on review. Our group just started states and capitals, and they are going home to study hard!

I've uploaded the first quarter questions here so you don't have to type them up. I print them on cardstock so they last longer. I got fancy with the second quarter questions and color coded them by week. Here are the third quarter questions.

How do we play ? We begin by dividing the group into two teams. Each team member has a number. Team A player 1 goes first. If he gets the answer, his team gets the points. If he misses, his team mates have a chance, but only for half the points. Then Team B Player 1 picks a category. Same as before, either he gets it right for full points, or his team mates help for half points. Play continues with Team A Player 2.

This system works much better for us than "group" answers - you know how there's always one kid who knows them all and the others don't bother. "Buzzzing in"--well that will just drive a tutor batty making the judgement call. Our system also means everyone matters on the team, as no one can melt into the background. (We ditched the answer-is-a-question format. It just didn't seem to go that well with our memory work)

Remember, class time is limited, so keep the game moving quickly. There just isn't time to hum the whole Jeopary song while someone thinks! They either know the answer or they don't. We spend just 20 minutes and usually clear the board each week.

Rewarding the winners. How you chose to reward the winning team is up to you. We keep a running score for 3 weeks, then make new teams. Our rewards are usually saint medals, holy cards, or CANDY! Don't get carried away with prizes--the good feeling that comes with a good performance should be fostered as much as possible. And remember, in real life we lose sometimes. Encourage everyone to study, study, study!

Monday, September 26, 2011

CSH - Becoming a Non-Profit Organization!

Catholic Schoolhouse (CSH) is in the process of becoming a formal non-profit organization. We strive to help "raise the bar" for homeschooling families by providing valuable peer interactions, academics, and enrichment for our homeschooled students.

This is exciting news as  encouraging and uniting Catholic homeschool families is truly our mission.  While we must all keep our lives properly balanced - God, family, others - we are working to optimize the CSH program by fine-tuning the grammar years, developing the dialectic and rhetoric programs, and striving to offer a useful and easy to navigate on-line community. 

In order to further our mission, there's a fee for CSH families to participate.  All money stays with the local program, except for a portion of the registration fee.  Three years of experience have really emphasized the importance of this.

To give some insight on our fee structure that requires an annual commitment, I'd like to share an experience with another homeschool group. This group charged a small fee to participate, but supplies were not included. Parents were solicited to bring snacks, art supplies, etc. each week. Next, we were requested to make donations to the facility. Volunteers rotated leaving the students with a new teacher each week. Then, the thank you gifts for volunteers began.  While this program sounded enriching and affordable, it didn't quite turn out as I had hoped. I felt that I was constantly being solicited for donations.

With this in mind, perhaps you can see why CSH requires families to pay for the entire year up front and does not offer refunds.  The director of each CSH uses the collected funds to run a consistent, good quality program. (This includes paying the facility, the workers, and providing all supplies.)   Family consistency is key to the program's success.  If families would like to try CSH on a trial basis, it is critical that they discuss this with their local director prior to enrolling.  This way, moderate flexibility can be allwed without destroying class sizes or the program budget (which really is tight).  Consistent teachers and peers helps our children normalize in class and allows them to encourage each other in their studies. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Revised: Psalm 23 ASL

Here are several revised videos of gestures for Psalm 23.  At the request of tutors for the older students, I'm using exclusively signs from ASL - no simple gestures.  Using these signs with all ages of students makes it easy to review at home.  If some are too difficult for the youngest students, omit one or two and focus on the key words.  Above each week's memory verse, I'm listing the words that I'm signing.  The site Signing Savvy is very helpful for seeing a clear demonstration of individual words.

Psalm    2   3   Lord   Shepherd   I   not   want

He    Makes    Lie    Pastures (fields)    He     Leads    Beside    Water   

He   Soul   He    Leads    Paths   Righteousness    His    Name  

Even though    I    Walk    Valley   Death   I   Fear   No   Evil   Thy (He)   Rod    Thy (He)   staff   comfort

Thou    table   in the presence of  enemies    Thou    head   cup   overflows

Goodness    mercy    follow   days    life   dwell   house   Lord   forever
Please note that, like many other languages, ASL is not sequenced like English.  We're just using ASL gestures here to expose children to some signing vocabulary as well as to aid them in memorizing this Bible verse.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Day with the Pre-Readers

As soon as the entire group has finished morning prayer, the pledge, and chorus, my class arrives at just about 9AM.  As the children sit down at their seats with their belongings neatly under their chairs, I tell them we have a new saint to discuss.  Because it's St. Therese of Liseux, I begin reading her story to them from the Catholic Children's Treasure Box books (which I will stretch over the 3 class periods that she is our featured saint).  I have saved a coloring page for the next week and a sacrifice beads project for the week after that.  The children love to listen to stories and are very quiet and attentive.
Handwriting Page
Next, I pass out a handwriting worksheet that I have created to go with our Bible verse.  Sometimes, we draw pictures to go with the Bible verse, but most often we do hand motions to aid in memorization.  I typically exlain the verse as we practice saying it.  It's interesting how some kids are so quick to do the work, while others are so detail oriented that they take more time.

Next, we play a game of charades with our Greek and Latin vocabulary words.  Some of the kids can read the words off the cards, but others need the words whispered in their ears.  They think this is great fun!

The class is very excited and  a little more chatty now, but it's time for them to go to art!  They love this time, so they line up very orderly (sometimes we have to do this twice, but the order is important for their self-discipline).  Another mom tutors the art classes, and she is prepared with information on the artist as well as a project (such as the Milllet one on the blog) that emphasizes the 7 elements of art.

After art, the kids return excited and ready for the snack, which I have provided for the class.  We listen to Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" as the kids talk about what they hear in the music during snack.

Now, it's time for what seems to be a favorite of the kids - presentations!  Each week, 2 or 3 children bring a show-and-tell item such as a favorite toy or a project completed at home.  They state their name, the topic, then tell the class about it.  Finally, they ask if there are any questions.  It takes about 3-5 minutes per presentation.  Some kids are so confident, while others have their mom's hold their hand until they're comfortable.

Line chart with week 16's work

Bar Graph with Week 16's Work

It's time to settle back down for academics, so we introduce the history cards of the week, which we use like flashcards.  I show the first cards and the class repeats the title, then we progress onto the second and so forth.  Sometimes we have history card relay races (better with the older kids) or find the hidden ones in the class.  Some cards are particularly relevant at this level, and I'll read a related story if I have one.

For sentences, I have brought Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day, and the kids are writing the sentences to go with the story.  We repeat the memory work, "A sentence is a complete thought in words..."  quite frequently as we make up sentences.  They all think this is fun.

Before leaving my class again to go to their science experiment/project, we begin our new quarter's focus on forces and motion by creating a lapbook that goes with the memory work.  This firs week, we put a little gravity booklet on one of the flaps and practice the definition with hand motions.  The kids just about have it down when it's time to line up again.

Our science teacher is well prepared and has an experiment for the kids to do outside timing the speed at which different objects fall.  The preconceived notions at this age as to what should land first are cute!

Map from Week 15

When my class returns, we have just enough time to mark the African rivers on maps I have prepared with glitter glue (oops - why didn't I do this first to let the glue dry!!)  Then, we finish the day off by calculating the average number of letters in the kids' names.  It turns out to be eight!  I guess my class has long names.

After this whirlwind morning, we say our closing prayer, the Act of Love, then the kids join their families for noon lunch and playtime!  My kids always have lots of fun, and I love that they can learn with their peers as well as play.

- Megan

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poetry Memorization: Lovely Lady...

Memorization is so important for all children, even the little ones!  By using our memories, we are training our brains to learn.  Here's a great quote from the Institute for Excellence in Writing's (IEW) website,
"Memorized poetry used to be the mainstay of education; today it is truly a lost art...  this vital source of linguistic patterning... Learn not only quick and accurate methods of memorizing poetry but also the fundamental components of poetry."
The information in Catholic Schoolhouse's Tour Guide can be used for memorization.  In Year One, Week 20, we recommend the memorization of the Lovely Lady poem listed below.  Because we cover many academic areas each week, we only printed a portion of this beautiful poem.  I've included the entire poem below as seen from a public domain prayer card.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Performance Tips

Guiding children in any performance is quite a challenge!  First, you have to find an appropriate play with roles that match the size of the group.

We have found a lovely, older collection of plays at the library that is simple to use with prop suggestions and stage directions.  Although it's a little more work, choosing a classic story, like an Aesop Fable or The Billy Goats Gruff, and adapting the story to fit your class is not too hard.  You can even involve the class in the adaptation.  
Performance of "The Little Kittens"

Here are some tips for your drama:
  • Plays with a chorus are wonderful for young children. 
  • Short lines with lots of back and forth can be difficult.
  • Don't be afraid to customize the script to match your cast.  We changed the script mid-practice and it was a big help one time!
  • Children can design simple sets.  Fingerpainting on large sheets of paper can be fun (our 4 and 5 year olds designed the rather abstract tree canopy in the backgound of these two plays).
  • The sooner the kids memorize the lines, the more they can focus on delivery.
  • Break the play into scenes or other small chunks to focus on one part at a time.
  • Dress rehearsal is a must!   
Performance of "Stone Soup"