Sunday, September 14, 2008

Important Errata Notice for Haystack Full of Needles

For everyone who wants to try the scone recipe in the back of Alice's book Haystack Full of Needles, please take note: There is a typo.


The recipe ought to list 2/3 cups of sugar.

Please keep in mind as well, that you add the buttermilk gradually, only as much as is needed (which will vary based on the humidity and the kind of flour you use). You may not need all that is listed.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Haystack Stories

I have been amazed and edified by the range of stories that I'm hearing from people who have read Alice Gunther's Haystack Full of Needles. We have found out that socialization for the moms is very important!!! People are sharing how their groups work and what true charity can do in a community of homeschoolers. We are also hearing how people have been inspired by the book to try and heal their groups that fell apart either because of lack of charity or lack of interest. I'm sure we'll hear more!!! Please feel free to respond in the comment section of this email if you want to share a story about your homeschool friendships.

I want to share one of mine. When I first moved to our present house, I was expecting number 5 and number 1 had just turned 7. I was a bit apprehensive about the move: one more time we moved to a totally new area where I knew no one, one more time I left behind a kindred spirit, and one more time I would have to try and put aside my introvert tendancies and reach out to other people.

Our new parish had many homeschoolers but a recent falling out had splintered the group and bad feelings abounded. I was content to be pregnant and hunker down with the family and not try to get in the middle of the divisiveness. When I took my children to CCD, there was a group of moms who hung out during CCD time, and I got to know a few of them. I was astounded when one of them, who had from the beginning been encouraging me to call and come over to her house for a visit, brought me a dinner when I had the baby. She didn't really even know me!! It was so sweet, and she was so generous and laid back about it. It still took me two months to get the courage to call her and say, "Hey, I'd like to take you up on your offer to bring the kids over and visit." Her enthusiastic response was a balm to me.

Since that time there have been many chances for mutual generosity, (my number 5 is now 8 years old and she now has 10 children) but it was that simple reaching out by her that turned the tide for me and helped me to come out of myself a bit. I've been thinking a lot about that with regard to Haystack Full of Needles. It doesn't take much to make someone feel like an outsider, and not much to make her feel welcome as well. I am filled with gratitude for this friend of mine . . . and I thought I better tell her:

Happy Birthday, Kathleen, and thanks for being a great friend over the years, opening your home and heart to whomever you meet!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Fenestrae Fidei

Revisiting this gem . . .

I found this lovely idea for using Fenestrae Fidei . . . and it reminded what a delightful book this is.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Haystacks Full of Needles

We've been getting a lot of absolutely lovely reviews of this book. Please visit the author's blog to read them all.

Unfortunately, we have had yet another setback at the printers and the book will be delayed about another two weeks. We appreciate the patience of those of you who have placed preorders. Please pray with us that whatever obstacles remain can be overcome quickly. We are so anxious to get it out, and we have never had as many delays getting a book printed. I hate to be so Catholic (well not really, I actually love it), but perhaps the devil isn't so happy about this book.

It's a book about charity, first and foremost, and being open to the friendships in Christ that God has planned for us.

We'll post again when we have the book in hand.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lingua Mater Americana

I was so gratified to read this post and learn that I am not the only one who takes on too much and then can't get it all done. Last December I posted a pretty ambitious publishing schedule. Of the items listed, we have only brought 2 to complete fruition. One more is ready to go this week and the rest . . . well, who knows what I will be able to accomplish. We are still working on these projects in various stages of production:

Lives of Plutarch: The Modern Edition of Twelve Lives edited and abridged with an introduction by John W. McFarland. This is a reprint of a version recommended in the MODG syllabus for 7th grade. It has been out of print for quite some time and can be very costly to buy used. We are sending it to the printer this week. Hooray!!

The King's Thane by Charles Brady. This is by the same author as Sword of Clontarf and was part of the Clarion series published by Doubleday in the 1960s. We have it typeset and will perhaps have it to the printer by end of the summer.

Mass Book for Children. Originally published by Benzinger Bros, this little gem includes stories and devotional explanations of the parts of the Latin Mass. We hope it have it done by Christmas time . . . . we'll see!

And now that brings me to Lingua Mater Americana, which is the follow up to Lingua Mater 7 and can be used for 8th or 9th grade. I have been working on this one in my head since the day that Lingua Mater 7 was published and at least 10 people wrote and said, "Don't you have one for 8th grade?" That was 3 years ago. Since then I have been listening to what people/users have said about Lingua Mater and what they think is best for language arts for the bridge to high school. I think I finally have a handle on the approach I want to take with it and have found an answer to my quandary over including grammar in it. Will it be done by the 2008-2009 school year? . . . sadly no.

However, I will be completing the writing of it this year as I work with a group of 8th graders who did Lingua Mater in 7th grade last year. They are my experiment group. If you'd like to participate, we can arrange to get you the lessons about a week ahead (oh sometimes a day ahead since I usually prepare for the week on Sunday night or early Monday morning). Actually, the first unit will be done before the first day of school. Please email me at if you are interested in getting the lessons by pdf as I go along. I only ask that you give me feedback at the end of the week or unit on how the lesson went and if everything made sense or got results. There were a few families who did this with me on Lingua Mater 7 and I am deeply grateful for their honest feedback.

So, what's in this volume?
The first nine weeks is a review of Lingua Mater 7 (modes of writing, basic grammar). The second nine weeks is work on sentence combining and voice, the third nine weeks focuses on the expository essay, and the last nine weeks is a kind of short story unit - many lessons based on one short story. The grammar lessons will be on that which is important to the writing BUT we will also have a really unique grammar supplement . . . mysterious, heh? More details on that will be revealed as we go along.

It's called "Americana" because it is meant to integrate with studies of American history which are done in 8th or 9th grade depending on what curriculum you follow. So all the literature pieces are written by American authors, all the paintings are by American painters, and all the poems are by American poets. It features the work of two contemporary authors: Elaine Woodfield and Suchi Myjak. Elaine is the author of the Stories of the Saints series from Catholic Heritage Curricula, and she has written two original stories about American saints for the book. Suchi is the author of Behold and See, also published by Catholic Heritage curricula, and she contributes two essays on science topics particular to America: the beaver and the life of Thomas Edison. The short story we use in Unit 4 will be reproduced in full in the book.

Perhaps by working through it during the year I will have it ready for printing next summer - depending on the length of the editing process. Lingua Mater 7 took one year to write and one year to edit (and it still had many mistakes).

Thanks to all those who have been patiently accepting my "it's not ready yet" answer every year. I'm sorry to have to say it again. But I think I have finally found a way to make it happen. Best wishes for a restful and rejuvenating summer.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Haystack Full of Needles

We are close enough to take preorders on this new title:

Haystack Full of Needles
A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization
by Alice Gunther

Please visit the website for all the preordering details.

From the Foreward by Laura Berquist:
"I love this book and I don’t say that lightly. It is truly wonderful."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Conference Update

Next weekend, you may view Hillside materials and subscribe to mater et magistra magazine at Mary Gildersleeve's table at the Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educators conference. (RMCHEC) Mary will be showcasing her knitting book and taking orders for all of our products. Be sure to attend her talk on handcrafts in the home school!! She will also have an article on handcrafts in the next issue of mater et magistra.

The following weekend I will be attending the IHM Conference in Chantilly, VA.
Please stop by my table and say hello.

Finally, I'll be speaking and vending at the Family Centered Conference in beautiful Lancaster, PA. The topic of my talk is authentic literature study: making good readers great thinkers. Alice Gunther will be the main speaker. See our next blog entry for information about her new book Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization.

I hope you will consider attending one of these conferences in your area. I've found that it's so wonderful to meet other homeschoolers and feel recharged in our efforts to provide the best for our children.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Beginning

Hillside is the new publisher for Heart & Mind magazine. Please visit our new magazine website.

We have renamed the magazine:

mater et magistra
Educating the Heart and Mind in the Catholic Home.

If you had a subscription with Heart & Mind your subscription will continue. If you didn't, now is a great time to subscribe!! All the great features of Heart & Mind will continue in the new magazine including the unit study pull-out section, resource reviews, and columns on literature, science, the Liturgical Year, and more. There are lots of opportunities for readers to contribute, so please visit and see what's coming up!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Cleaning SALE

We're having a sale!

All picture books that accompany Catholic Mosaic or Christmas Mosaic are now on sale. You will also find most of the books in the category "Books of Interest" on sale as well.

Help us clean our shelves and make way for our new titles.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another New Title

Even though we got about 8-10 inches of snow today, it certainly feels like spring here at Hillside!

We have another new book to announce, and I can't help feeling it's something bright on the horizon of winter, like the slowly lengthening days, full of promise.


Great Yarns for the Close-Knit Family,
Over two dozen original hand-knit designs
inspired by one dozen fantastic family read-alouds

The book will be available March 12th and we're now accepting preorders on the website. Each preorder will receive a pair of birchwood knitting needles that can be used for some of the hand-knit projects.

So what are these projects and why is Hillside doing a knitting book?
Well, this book features knitting projects that accompany great works of children's literature:

Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Canadian Summer by Hilda van Stockum
The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkein
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Highlands By Melissa Wiley
The Lost Island by Eilis Dillon
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Redwall by Brian Jacques
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Wheel on the School by Meindert de Jong

While your family enjoys reading aloud these great "yarns" you and/or your children can be knitting the projects. All the projects are original designs by Mary, the knitting guru.

Visit the Hillside website to find out more about the preorder.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Mystery Revealed At Last

In our closing-for-Christmas post we alluded to a homeschooling resource book that we would be publishing this year. I'm very happy to announce this book to you now!

Haystack Full of Needles,
A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization
by Alice Gunther

Most of us at one time or another have had to wrestle with the issue of socialization, either in dealing with friends and family members who question our decision to home educate, or from our own hearts as we worry about our children's hopes for friendship. In this book Alice shows that "Socialization is not the weakness of home education—it is its strength and joy."

Alice chronicles her own path from skepticism about home educating's ability to provide sufficient social experiences for her children, to the flowering of a local home school group that provides its members with meaningful social experiences within the context of home educating.

Full of examples and practical suggestions, this will be an extremely uplifting addition to your cache of home education resources. We'll post more details as the book nears publication. We expect to release this book in the spring.

(Cover design by Ted Schluenderfritz)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conference Schedule 2008

Here are the conferences where you can view Hillside material and ask questions (and meet me!):

Memphis, TN March 14 and 15

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania April 5

IHM, Chantilly, VA June 13 and 14

Family-Centered Learning, Lancaster, PA July 25 and 26
(new dates)

As dates are added we will update this post.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Giveaway

Visit the love2learn blog today for a chance to win some Hillside titles.

All the novels are up for grabs as well as Stories with a View.

We have found a new printer for Stories with a View and now the pages are more sturdy, the images sharper, and the cover is double laminated for greater durability. It's a beautiful version!!!

Hope you win!!

Only a few days left of the great love2learn book giveaway. So visit today!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Loving Literature as the Basis for Literature Study

Part 1
Explanation in progress for Purposeful Literature Study: Making good readers great thinkers.

Believe it or not, there is a way to do literary analysis without killing the love of reading for a child/student! My experience has been that by discovering deeper and more meaningful levels in a story, a reader/student falls more in love with a story. By creating an atmosphere of wonder, questioning and discussing, relating your experience with the text, predicting and sharing your prediciton, the story comes to life. Notice that each of the activities mentioned above is done with someone. Reading is a social event. That sounds shocking. "No, it's not," you say. "It's an isolating event where everyone has his own nose is his own world." I would object and say that we long to share what we are reading with someone. If we're reading a great book, we're talking about it. (Just ask my husband!!) "Conversing about a text deepens our understanding of virtually everything we read (Keene/Zimmermann, Mosaic of Thought, page 7)."

The underpinning keys to good literature study then are: 1.) a good book with rich layers of meaning; 2.)shared reading in a community of readers who are talking to each other about the story--that is, discussion; 3.)a study designed so that the student is lead to discover and/or construct the meaning; 4.) quality over quantity, that is: not every book the child reads should be analyzed. Many other books can be read and discussed, but 3 or 4 per school year is sufficient for in-depth study.

The goal of literature study is a search for meaning, the discovery of a story, and the appreciation for the craft of the author. The most important teaching technique for this is modeling behavior. Children need to see us read, they need to hear us ask questions about a text or predict something in a text. The study is divided into three parts: Before Reading: Anticipating Meaning, During Reading: Constructing Meaning, and After Reading: Reconstructing and Extending Meaning. While all of the Hillside study guides have these three sections, this is not something I made up myself. It is well-accepted, long-practiced, and heavily researched method for teaching almost any subject, even found in the Ignatian method of education.

More to come in further posts:
Research on reader behavior
Levels of interpretation and critical thinking
Writing as part of literature study

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Family Centered Learning Conference

Hillside will be attending this conference and I will be giving a talk there entitled: Purposeful Literature Study: Making Good Readers Great Thinkers.

Many people have asked me over the years about the literature guides we write and how to do literary analysis, even, "What is literary analysis?" I will be posting a series of articles to this blog over the next few months in which I sort out some of the ideas for my talk and present my vision for literature study. I'll be talking about levels of interpretation, recent research on reader behavior, and tips for growing your good readers into great thinkers.