Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Base 10 Blocks

Base 10 Blocks
Math Manipulative

The Base 10 Blocks are essentially an extension of the Cuisenaire rods idea. Available in unit cubes, ten rods, hundred flats, and thousand cubes, the Base 10 blocks are sized so that ten units will fit in the same space as a ten rod, ten ten rods will cover a hundred flat, and ten hundred flats will stack into the size of a thousand cube. Thus, they provide a hands-on way to understand and visualize the denary (i.e. base 10) number system.

In order to match the Cuisenaire rods that we already use, I ordered unit cubes in natural wood (the closest color to white), and the ten rods in orange.

I have made my own cards to go with these blocks (see picture), based on an idea in Natural Structure by Edward and Nancy Walsh. Using blank 3x5 index cards, I made cards reflecting the value of each place in the decimal system from units to thousands. Thousands are written on the full-width cards, hundreds on 3/4-width, tens on half-width, and units on 1/4-width cards. The child can match the cards to the manipulatives, and then combine them to form the number.

At first, we use the cards to simply identify the value of large numbers. Then, we add numbers together and see how this can "make" new tens. This has been the most difficult step for us. It seems that once they get this concept, extending it to the higher place values is relatively simple.

We have found the Base 10 blocks helpful in clarifying place value concepts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stem cells and sick children

Michelle, writing on May 18:
Yesterday at The University of Notre Dame, our president made the following statement:

“Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.”

Let’s be clear, there is no conflict here. Yes I have conviction about the sacredness of life and yes I have two children with juvenile (type 1) diabetes. I am not opposed to stem cell research and that view does not at all conflict with my Catholic faith. The Catholic Church is in fact very much in favor of stem cell research. Stem cell research shows much promise and we do indeed hope for a cure.

Where the problem lies, Mr. Obama, is in embryonic stem cell research. Research done with stem cells taken from unborn babies. Research done for the “greater good” on the backs of the most vulnerable persons in society. That, I most certainly have a problem with and frankly so should you –so should all of us! Embryonic stem cell research is immoral, unethical and downright horrific!

And you know what? It doesn’t even work. more

Free Online Seminars for Homeschooling Parents!

These are wonderful resources for homeschooling parents, offered free through Homeschool Connections. Thanks, Maureen, for making them available!

From Maureen Wittmann:
Free Live Online Seminars (After clicking on link, scroll down to the bottom and click on Register)
Choosing Worthwhile Homeschool Materials (June 10)

Free Conference Talks (Recorded)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 21-May 31, 2009: Pentecost Novena for Life

In the days leading up to Pentecost, the disciples prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We too pray for his coming, and for his power that renews the face of the earth and brings about the victory of life.
(Spanish version -- En EspaƱol)

Holy Spirit,
At the dawn of creation,
You brought order out of chaos,
Light out of darkness,
Life out of nothingness.

Breathe on us once again,
And change this culture of death
Into a Culture of Life.

Inspire in your people
A spirit of generous welcome
For each and every life,
No matter how unexpected or dependent
That life may be.

Holy Spirit,
You are the Advocate.
As you fill us with Yourself,
Make us advocates
For the unborn and all the vulnerable,

Until we are all united
In the endless life and joy
of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Summer School!

From Maureen Wittmann and Homeschool Connections:

We use webinar technology for our online courses. The students can see and hear the professor via a webcam and microphone. In turn, the students can communicate with the professor through the chat room or their own microphone. There is also a Power Point presentation that is viewable on the same screen. The teens love the technology.

This is an awesome opportunity to keep teens engaged and learning over the summer. These particular courses have been designed for summer time with no or light homework. Also, all classes are recorded so if you're away on vacation for a week or two, and can't access the Internet, you can simply watch the recorded event later. In fact, registered students have access to the recorded classes for 6 months for review. This is a great value for the price!

All courses require high speed internet (non-dial-up).

If you want to register, just click here. Please don't hesitate to send questions or suggestions to: Maureen Wittmann, mwittlans [at] aol [dot] com.

Here is the list of courses. Note that both of the instructors have experience teaching at the kitchen table as well as in the ivory tower. I've talked to several moms whose high school children have taken their courses. Both men are loved by their homeschool students and come highly recommended.

You can find full details plus the instructors' bios at the links below, or at the Homeschool Connections blog.

Course list:
Beowulf and Christ with Henry Russell, Ph.D
The Catholic Shakespeare: MacBeth with Henry Russell, Ph.D
The Space Trilogy and C. S. Lewis with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D
Catholic Living for Young People with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
Writing for College Preparatory with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
Short Stories by J. R. R. Tolkien with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
The Mass Explained for Young People with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.

These are high school level courses. Dr. Gotcher indicated junior and senior level for the writing course. For the literature classes I would say to make sure they're mature enough to read the material, enjoy it, and discuss it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Irena Sendler, RIP

Fate may have led Irena Sendler to the moment almost 70 years ago when she began to risk her life for the children of strangers.

Irena Sendler

But for this humble Polish Catholic social worker, who was barely 30 when one of history's most nightmarish chapters unfolded before her, the pivotal influence was something her parents had drummed into her.

"I was taught that if you see a person drowning," she said, "you must jump into the water to save them, whether you can swim or not."

When the Nazis occupying Poland began rounding up Jews in 1940 and sending them to the Warsaw ghetto, Sendler plunged in.

With daring and ingenuity, she saved the lives of more than 2,500 Jews, most of them children, a feat that went largely unrecognized until the last years of her life.

read more here

Sendler died in Warsaw one year ago today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bishops: Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research

Following President Obama’s March 9 executive order, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proposed guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The guidelines would – for the first time – use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells.

This marks a new chapter in divorcing biomedical research from its necessary ethical foundation, respect for human life at all stages.


Please take a minute to urge Congress not to fund research that kills embryonic human beings and to register your opposition to the new NIH guidelines.

"If we stand for nothing, we begin to fall for everything."

The above quote, reminiscent of Chesterton, is from Fr. Corapi:

More quotes transcribed from the video:
"Pray for the University of Notre Dame, its president, Board of Directors, and students. And pray for out bishops, for in the end the burden will rest on their shoulders to decide whether the University of Notre Dame and others like it are Catholic or not."
"The battle is not over, my friends. It has just now begun in earnest. So fight the good fight, run the race to the finish line, for in the end, we have the certain knowledge that in the end, truth will triumph over lies, light over darkness, and good over evil."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

God ... America's Hope

Tomorrow, May 7, is the 58th annual National Day of Prayer. This year's theme, based on Psalm 33:22: "May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You," is Prayer ... America's Hope.

We need to pray especially with our culture disintegrating around us, our economy in trouble, the ongoing threat of terrorism, and a national Administration repeatedly acting to advance the Culture of Death,

We need to pray because only God saves. Our hope is in Him, not in any political leader.

Let us join with millions of others to pray for our beloved nation.

For more information, or to find a gathering near you, go to

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review: Cuisenaire Rods

Math Manipulative from ETA/Cuisenaire

When I first researched homeschooling products and resources, I spent quite some time looking at different math manipulatives. For one thing, there are so many, and for another, I love math. I remember wondering whether these colored rods would really be worth purchasing, as they are on the expensive side. And my math education, as far as I could remember, had been accomplished without a single manipulative.

Then I found Miquon Math, and immediately liked the concept. Miquon uses Cuisenaire rods as their primary manipulative, so with some trepidation, I acquired a starter set.

I needn't have worried. The rods made math so much easier for my very concrete, hands-on son to grasp. That was almost a decade ago, and now my youngest enjoys doing his math with the rods.

The concept behind the rods is simple. Each rod color is a specific length, representing a particular number of units. White rods are "units" 1cm long, reds are twice as long and represent the number 2, and so forth. A starter set comes with several of each rod from 1-10, with more of the smaller rods.

The child then uses the rods in combination to visualize basic math concepts. Perhaps it is obvious that addition can be modeled using such rods, simply by putting them end to end in a "train." However, they can also be used for subtraction, multiplication, and division, and even fractions, areas, and more. Using the Cuisenaire rods, quite young children can understand what multiplication means and can work out simple problems.

We actually own a lot of math manipulatives, including both store-bought and homemade ones, but these are the ones I use the most.

Cross-posted with

Notre Dame, My Mother

A lot has been said about the situation at Notre Dame and Fr. Jenkins' unfortunate decision to honor an avowed champion of abortion. But I think Lacy Dodd has some excellent thoughts on the matter.
For many members of the Notre Dame Class of 2009, the uproar surrounding the university’s decision to honor Barack Obama with this year’s commencement address, and to bestow on him a doctorate of laws, has provoked strong feelings about what the ensuing conflict will mean for their graduation.

I know how they feel. Ten years ago, my heart was filled with similar conflicts as we came closer to the day of my own Notre Dame commencement and my commissioning as an officer in the United States Army.

You see, I was three months pregnant. ...

In my hour of need, on my knees, I asked Mary for courage and strength. And she did not disappoint.

My boyfriend was a different story. He was also a Notre Dame senior. When I told him that he was to be a father, he tried to pressure me into having an abortion. Like so many women in similar circumstances, I found out the kind of man the father of my child was at precisely the moment I needed him most. “All that talk about abortion is just dining-room talk,” he said. “When it’s really you in the situation, it’s different. I will drive you to Chicago and pay for a good doctor.”

I tried telling him this was not an option. He said he was pro-choice. I responded by informing him that my choice was life. And I learned, as so many pregnant women have before and since, that life is the one choice that pro-choicers won’t support.


There have been many things written about the honors to be extended to President Obama. I’d like to ask this of Fr. John Jenkins, the Notre Dame president: Who draws support from your decision to honor President Obama—the young, pregnant Notre Dame woman sitting in that graduating class who wants desperately to keep her baby, or the Notre Dame man who believes that the Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is just dining-room talk?

Please go over to First Things and read her whole speech.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: My First Number Book

My First Number Book
by Marie Heinst
1999, 48 pages, hardcover, DK Publishing

This delightful picture book introduces many math concepts to preschoolers. We have enjoyed working through concepts of counting, matching, sorting, sets, and sequencing. The illustrated pages make it fun for my son to discover more, less, and equal, addition and subtraction, geometric solids, and more. For example, matching begins with familiar matching pairs such as handprints, shoes, and earrings. Ideas of more or less begin to take shape as the child ponders such questions as, "Are there enough collars for the puppies?"

Sometimes your child may surprise you with an unexpected answer; for example, on a page showing five puppies and three doghouses, my son confidently assured me that "each puppy can have its own house." When I asked him how, he said, "The puppies that are brothers share a house." To him, sharing was not incompatible with the idea of being its "own" house.

The book also includes a few games. My son's favorite is a simple game involving counting backward or forward according to the roll of the die and directions on specific spaces.

Numbers are incorporated into the book in other clever ways; for example, each page number is illustrated by a string of the appropriate number of items. See if your child notices. Near the end is a section of BIG numbers, which all my children have enjoyed.

This book does an unusually good job of combining attractive photographs with effective questions designed to lead the child to discover math concepts.

I think it is currently out of print, but it's not hard to find at used book sources.

Cross-posted with