This page was started as a way to fill the gap and connect Catholic homeschooling families in Eastern Pennsylvania. Please join us on Facebook to keep up with the conversation and to make new friends!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Preparation: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

As we prepare for this weekend's Liturgy of the Word, it almost seems as though there are 4 unique readings that offer us a look at the different ways we put into action the Word of God.

The First Reading, a discussion from Moses to the Israelite people, is a call to adhere to the commands of the Lord.  He tells them to observe the commands carefully so that their wisdom will be clear to all who see them. 

The Psalm, then, progresses to tell us how to act, rather than what rules to follow.  We are told that "One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord" and then the Psalm proceeds to give us examples of being this just person: walk blamelessly, think without malice, don't reproach or mistreat those around you, refusing bribes.  These are actions of those who will not be welcomed into the Lord's presence. 

In two readings, we've been given commands to follow and examples of how to behave.  The Second Reading, which comes from James, gives us an insight into our own creation: "He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."  He further commands us to not delude ourselves into thinking that we can somehow just know the Word without action.  "Be doers of the word and not hearers only."  How can we be doers according to this reading?  By helping widows and orphans and staying "unstained" by the world we live in.

Finally, we have the Gospel.  So far, the readings have been very straightforward: follow the commandments of the Lord and, in doing so, behave appropriately.  And then we hear the story of the Apostles eating without first washing their hands- a big no-no in Jewish culture.  The Pharisees, who typically represent the knowing-the-Word-in-word-but-not-in-Spirit, are appalled.  They approach Jesus, wanting to know why the Disciples are not following the letter of the law, to which Jesus replies, "...In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition."  He then calls the people to him and says further,  "Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

Questions to consider from the Gospel:  "All these evils come from within and they defile.”  What does this mean?  Is Jesus telling us to disregard the ancient writings and to focus more on our internal vices and how those things bring us closer to or push us farther away from God?  Do we cling to "human tradition" at the expense of the Spirit of God's Word and the teachings of the Church?  Where are we- are we like the disciples, eating to our fill of Christ but with soiled hands, or are we like the Pharisees, who cling to the literal words in the Bible and Catechism, making sure that we look the part on the outside while perhaps not letting God permeate our innermost being?  Are we somewhere in between?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curricula Spotlight: Catholic Heritage Curricula (CHC)

Curricula: Catholic Heritage Curricula
Interactive Catalog:
PreOrganized Lesson Plans:

"Catholic Heritage Curricula's exclusive materials and lesson plans fit together to provide a solid, complete, family-friendly PreK–12 Catholic education. It is CHC's belief that, when solid academics are offered in a gentle, flexible manner, the vast majority of children will blossom spiritually, emotionally, and academically. CHC's educational approach lays a joyful foundation, resulting in children who achieve at and above grade level, do not ‘burn out,’ and instead ‘learn how to learn.’ While CHC offers complete homeschool programs with lesson plans, ours is not a ‘pre-packaged’ curriculum. Rather, CHC's plans are constructed to allow maximum choice and flexibility to fit your student, while at the same time providing a complete education."

What homeschooling parents are saying:
"Our family has gained so much from using your lesson plans. It has made us have a practical plan to put God first in our studies and CHC has such rich, quality products that teach so much more than I ever learned growing up Catholic. Keep up the good work, God Bless…"   —Katherine, CA

"I have been Catholic homeschooling for 13 years. I have used just about everything there is out there with my 5 boys at some point or other. I feel that your materials are 'just right.' I have changed so much in my approach to homeschooling in the last decade. I have a masters in education and taught in public and parochial junior and senior high schools before having children. So, when we began to homeschool, I 'brought school home' for my older sons… Now with my younger ones, I truly believe that a gentler, focused approach works the best for them. Not only are your materials so wonderfully, authentically Catholic, but they teach all the necessary concepts with a good amount of practice but without busywork. They are just right. They help reduce the risk of 'schooling' from getting in the way of 'education'… Blessings to you as you continue your good work!"    —Maureen

Sample some of CHCs curriculum for free by clicking here
Do you use CHC?  Please use the comment section to share your thoughts and experiences!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Preparation: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

As we prepare for this weekend's Liturgy of the Word, what comes to your mind when you think of serving God- as a Person?  As a parent?  As a spouse?  The readings this week address these issues, even though, at times, these readings make people uncomfortable.

The Old Testament Reading has Joshua asking the people who they will serve: God is not their only option.  There are the gods of the people from over the river, the gods of the culture where the Hebrews are residing, and then, of course, Yahweh.  Joshua's question doesn't seem to come with any sort of anger or given answer; he is simply giving his people an option and telling them his choice.  "If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve...As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."  Our world offers us so many options as to who we will serve.  As spiritual beings, we feel called to worship and have a relationship with something far greater than ourselves.  In the world, we have a variety of religions and deities that we can find; have we chosen to serve the Lord?  Will we find ourselves worshiping gods we have created in the media or in our lives, or will we answer, like Joshua's tribe, "we...will serve the Lord, for he is our God"?

The Psalm repeats this week, with its refrain of "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord."  Yet, excluding the first "verse" of the Psalm, the remaining verses are not from the 20th Week.  Instead, we are given a look at the mercy of the Lord.  He sees and hears the just; He is close to the brokenhearted.  The Lord delivers and saves the just.  It is easy to love and praise God in the good times; who doesn't say "Thanks be to God!" when they are financially stable, their families happy, the health well, and their dreams seeming to come true one by one!  But it becomes harder to give thanks and praise when our lives feel shattered: when marriages feel on the brink of destruction, when children die, when we battle illness.  In a society that is wracked by job loss and instability, we often find ourselves barely making it from paycheck to paycheck; with parents reaching older ages and being confronted with debilitating illnesses, we find ourselves not only children but caretakers as well.  Perhaps your life felt complete when God blessed you with a new baby, and you are left wondering how you will start your life as a parent all over again- when you were just getting a grasp on the family you had.  Or maybe your very wanted baby has died in utero to miscarriage or stillbirth, or a child you have cared for and nourished outside of the womb has succumbed to illness and death.  How do we praise God in these awful times?  How do we- especially when we feel we are the "just" that this week's Psalm describes- offer up our sufferings while saying "Thank you, God" for the pain?  How do we accept the embrace that the Lord offers because He IS close to the brokenhearted, when we feel as though are hearts cannot be mended?

The fifth chapter of Ephesians, from which the second reading is drawn, is often a hard pill for many Christians (especially women) to swallow.   We often hear the "Be subservient to your husband" passage without taking note of the way St. Paul begins this section.  
"Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."

In the household- our domestic church- we find each person carrying roles that make the home function.  As in any organization- military, business, or church- there are varying roles, with someone having to be at the top of the pyramid to report to the big "boss"- in this case, God.  We can't always agree; at some point, a person- the ultimate leader of the organization- must make a choice that reflects the best needs of all the family (not just their own opinions).  St. Paul, in Ephesians, gives guidance to the Christian family.  He begins by telling all the members to be subservient to each other because of their love of Jesus.  Put each other first, he is telling them; put yourself last.  This is a commonly repeated message in the Bible.  Wives are told to see Christ in their husbands and to willingly, and with the same love they have for Jesus, to put themselves in a role that looks to their husband for love, support, guidance, and care.  Do we, as wives, look to our husbands this way?  Do we see them as an embodiment of the Lord in our home, the same way we look to our priests as a visual representation of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? 

Husbands are given no easy task; St. Paul tells them that they are to love their wives in the same way that Jesus Christ loves the Church.  What a call!  Jesus gave His life willingly for the lives He was saving- past, present, and future.  He suffered greatly; He lost everything that a human man could lose.  His friends turned on him, His body was abused, He was the brokenhearted in the Psalms, crying out to God in agony.  And yet, He did all of this with love in His heart.  He did all of this for the ones He loved.  Husbands are given this great command- to give everything to their wives, to lose everything for them, to love them with a love so strong that it surpasses death and suffering.  Husbands, do we look at our wives as Jesus looks at humanity?  Do we love them to the point of losing our own desires and needs, in order to put theirs first?  Not only are husbands told this command, but St. Paul continues by telling husbands to love their wives like they love themselves.  Humans have a naturally selfish streak; we want our own ways, our needs met, our desires fulfilled.  St. Paul turns that around; husbands are commanded to feel this way in regards to their wives.  This passage ends with telling us that this is all "a great mystery", and that it is.  What a self-sacrifice to give yourself completely to your spouse; to value their role in your life among your own, to truly see Jesus in them.

The Gospel Acclamation echoes this great mystery by telling us that the Word is our spirit and our life, leading us into the Gospel from John, which begins by the Disciples saying, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"  In light of the previous readings from today, we may find ourselves saying this very same thing!  This Gospel follows the Gospel reading from the 20th and 19th Sundays; specifically, Jesus's followers are asking how Jesus can truly give them His body and blood for consumption and life.  However, this is a beautiful tie in to the second reading when husbands are commanded to give up all for their wives as Jesus did for the Church and wives are commanded to willingly put themselves subservient to their husbands as they do in love for their relationship to Christ.  This marital mystery intertwines with the Mystery of the Eucharist.  Does Jesus tell the people "You're right- it's hard.  Let's reevaluate."?  No. Instead, He says, "It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail."  What does this mean to you?  How do you read this in light of the readings from last week as well as the readings from this week?

Many people, as a result of this teaching, leave Jesus.  The Gospel tells us "Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him."  We, just like these disciples and those surrounding Joshua in the first reading, have the same option.  We can take the teachings from the Bible and the Catechism and choose to not follow them.  God has given us free will and minds to try to reason and understand.  But each time we do this, we are also offered the same question of our ancestors- the same question that Jesus poses to the Apostles in John, "Do you also want to leave?"

Questions to consider from the Gospel:  How do handle the Word when it conflicts with your natural inclination?  Do you find yourself embracing the teachings of the Church even when it is a struggle or do you feel more in line with the modern "take what you want and leave the rest" motto?  How would you answer the Lord if you were one of the Twelve with him in the book of John?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

FIeld Trip Review: Bucks County Children's Museum

Name: Bucks County Children's Museum
Address: 500 Union Square Dr, New Hope, PA 18938
Preferred Ages: 1-7
Cost: $8/pp  (plus parking)
Membership Cost: $90-$100

The Bucks County Children's Museum is located a few blocks from the "main strip" in New Hope.  Parking is available in an attached municipal lot at $1 per hour; there is a minimum $3 charge for credit cards.  The museum itself is 9,000 square feet and it usually takes about 45 minutes - 90 minutes to go through all of the exhibits.

There are four rooms of stationary exhibits.  Room 1 includes a visual example of the river locks, a hands on archway building activity for two, a shadow room, and a wind power exhibit with scarves.  Room 2 has a hot air balloon visualization, a dig-for-fossils exhibit, and a build-your-own racer and track, along with a ball fall that children can build with various tracks.  Room three has a recycling ground visual along with a light activity, a castle, and a slide.  Room four includes a train car, general store and post office, and a garden that young children will enjoy.  A small side room rotates exhibits.  As of the summer, it was a hospital room that allowed children to play with a full size "Operation" game.  Prior to that, it was a Kinex room.

There is a large meeting room that can be divided into two for parties and large trips.  Members are allowed to bring nut-free lunches to store in the fridge.  The bathrooms have adult and child sized stalls.

Overall, this is a big hit with younger children but may be slightly boring to older children.  It is a quick field trip but the space can be overwhelmed with schools and camps attend.  If you see your family visiting more than 3-4 times a year, a membership makes sense (especially depending on family size).  It does offer you a discount on parties and merchandise

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Feast of the Assumption/Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Happy Feast of the Dormition/Assumption!
Ave Maria, Pro Nobis!
Iper Hagia Theotokos, Soson Imas!

Learn more about this Holy Day in the Church here.

Readings and Worship:
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mass during the Day
Apolytikion (First Tone)
In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.
Kontakion (Second Tone)
Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Preparation: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the 20h Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

As we prepare for this weekend's Liturgy of the Word, what comes to your mind when you think of the Eucharist?  When you consider the magnificent experience of actually partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, it is truly a transformative experience.  

The first reading, from Proverbs, invites us to watch the table being set and ends with the words "Forsake foolishness that you may live."  What foolishness do you find in your life?  Do you see this as blocking the way to your eternal life?

In the Psalm, we sing together "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord."  How good the Lord is!  How wonderful it is to praise God together!  What are the ways that you celebrate the goodness of all the Lord gives to your family, together with your family?  Do you take time to glorify God as a family unit?  Have you focused on building your domestic church and, if not, what are some ways that you make your domestic church a priority?

Once again, foolishness and ignorance make an appearance in the readings, this time in the second reading from the book of Ephesians.  We are told to watch how we live and to seek to understand God's will.  In addition, the reading cautions us against debauchery and encouraging us to praise God together in song through the Psalms.  Are their vices in your life that are impeding your ability to praise God?  Are you putting vices before your family?  Are you seeking out God's will in your life, giving thanks even during the rough spots?

The Gospel, from the book of John, is the quintessential reading that points us to the Eucharist.  "I am the living bread that came down from heaven," says Jesus.  He also implores us to partake of this divine gift.  "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."  Each day, we have the unique opportunity to experience Christ in the Eucharistic Feast.  The Church offers us guidance on receiving the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus.   To receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention and to obey the Church's laws on the fast required before Holy Communion out of reverence for the body and blood of Our Divine Lord.  Venial sin does not make us unworthy of receiving Holy Communion; but it does prevent us from receiving the more abundant graces and blessings which we would otherwise receive from Holy Communion. After Holy Communion we should spend some time adoring Our Lord, thanking Him, renewing our promises of love and of obedience to Him, and asking Him for blessings for ourselves and others.  Are you allowing yourself the graces available by reconciling yourself to Jesus regularly and by participating in the Eucharistic table?  Are you encouraging holiness in your home by taking your children to do the same? 

Questions to consider from the Gospel:  How is Jesus your living bread?  In what ways can you deepen your faith and your connection to the Trinity through the Eucharist?  How can you keep the beauty of Holy Communion in your home and family?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Homeschooling Within the Church

This information is taken from Seton.  For the entire article, please refer here.

Does the Catholic Church allow home schooling?

Absolutely, yes! In fact, the Catholic Church strongly supports home schooling.

Several documents of the Church use language specifically stating that parents must be acknowledged as first and foremost educators of their children:

While not using the words home schooling directly, all the documents of the Catholic Church mentioned above leave absolutely no doubt that the primary right of education and the duty of education lie with the parents. The parents are the primary educators.

The Bible tells us:
Fathers teach your children… (Deuteronomy 6:6)
You shall read the law aloud in the presence of all… Assemble the people, men, women and children that they may hear and learn it. (Deut. 31: 11-13)
We also read in Deuteronomy:
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad… (Deut. 6: 6-7)
When your son asks you what these ordinances, statutes and decrees mean which the Lord our God has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once slaves of Pharaoh but the Lord brought us out of Egypt…” (Deut. 6: 20-22)
The Book of Proverbs also exhorts:
My son, forget not my teaching; keep in mind my commands. (Proverbs 3: 1)

From the very beginning of the life of their children, the Catholic Church encourages parents to teach their children about the Faith. It is not surprising then, that Vatican II reiterates this in #3 of its Declaration on Christian Education:
" Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and men that a well-rounded personal social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family enriched by the grace and the office of the Sacrament of Matrimony that from their earliest years children should be taught according to the Faith received in Baptism… Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually introduced into civic partnership with their fellow men and into the people of God."
This Declaration further reminds us that “education requires the help of society as a whole” but it must not be forgotten that the original right of education belongs directly with the parents. Society may “aid” the parent but not usurp a parent’s power to educate.

Saint John Paul II said: "As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, the parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.”" (Familiaris Consortio, #36)


This information is taken from Catholic Homeschool Support.

So you are considering homeschooling and wonder – what do I do next?
  • Pray - ask God to help you discern if He is calling to homeschooling. Consider praying a novena for discernment.
  • Find a local Catholic Support Group – If you have a group in your area please contact them. It’s the easiest way to get to see what kind of materials families use. Generally groups have activities that you can attend to meet other mothers and kids.
  • Find Out Your State’s LawsHome School Legal Defense Association has information on all states laws regarding homeschooling. Your local group should be able to help too.
  • Order Catalogs – Go through the Curriculum Providers and Homeschool Supply Providers and ask for catalogs. This gives you an idea of materials available.
  • Attend a Homeschool Conference – If there is a conference within an hour or two, try and attend. This gives you a chance to actually see materials, attend workshops, and meet others who are homeschooling in your area. Conferences are generally in the spring and I list as many as I can find (the page usually goes up in the winter).
  • Read about Curriculum Approaches – I’ve provided links for many approaches; begin to look at what bests fits you and your family.
  • Join an Email List – if you can’t find a local group or you need to ask more questions than your group is able to answer, considering joining an email list. They can be an excellent source of support.
  • Just Do It – if you are being called to homeschool, don’t be tempted to put off the decision because you are trying to pull everything together. Sometimes, families just need to do it and work on the details as they go along. Consider field trips, reading literature and nature study as a way to get started.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Preparation: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

As we prepare for this weekend's Liturgy of the Word, what comes to your mind when you think of God's presence in your life? As in the first reading, do you find yourself like Elijah, looking for God in large signs before seeing Him in the fire?
In the Psalm, we respond with "Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation."  In what ways has the Lord shown you His kindness this week.  Have you felt the beauty of Christ's salvation in your life in a special way recently?
St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says, " I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people..."  Following Jesus and the teachings of the Church isn't easy; often times we find ourselves fighting against what God asks of us and what the world around us asks of us.  Especially in this time of unease and unrest in our respective societies, we find ourselves with the sorrow and pain that St. Paul writes about.   Are you filling pulled in many directions?  Are you having fights within your family or circle of friends, where you feel your beliefs being challenged or questioned? 
We can turn to the Gospel for Jesus's direct teaching to us.  Matthew's Gospel tells us that the boat His disciples were in was being tossed about in the waves.  Peter, although he tells Christ that he will follow the Master onto the waves, begins to sink in the face of his own fear.  But Jesus catches him, asking him simply, "Why did you doubt?”
As we are tossed about in the sea of culture and disbelief, we often say that we want to be like St. Peter, walking out into the waves.  But we are overcome by trouble and fear, and we begin to sink.  Sometimes, we start to flail our arms; sometimes we fall beneath the waves.  Are you falling?  Have you reached out your hand like St. Peter?
Questions to consider from the Gospel:  Why do we doubt?  Are there ways that you have doubted recently?  What are ways that you can combat your doubt?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Welcome to Eastern PA Catholic Homeschoolers

This page was started on August 5, 2015, as a way to fill the gap and connect Catholic homeschooling families in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Please join us on Facebook to keep up with the conversation and to make new friends!

I anticipate that Facebook will be the place where trips are planned, connections are made, etc, while this webpage will function more as a place for weekly or monthly Catholic homeschool related posts (probably each Wednesday, there will be an update of some sort) as well as posting information about field trips or get-togethers.