Transcript of CS#63: Maureen Wittmann Talks Catholic Homeschooling

Transcript of Interview with Maureen Wittmann about Umbert the Catholic Homeschool Companion. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

Catholic Homeschool Companion is available at The Catholic Company.


Chris:  This is the Catholic Spotlight, the podcast where we talk about what’s new, cool, and exciting in the Catholic marketplace.  I’m your host, Chris Cash, Director of e-commerce from, your source for all your Catholic needs.

Chris:  And today in the spotlight, we have Maureen Wittman, an awesome homeschooling resource person mainly because she does it, right Maureen?

Maureen:  That’s right, Chris.  So good to be with you here this morning.

Chris:  And it’s good to be with you too and in typical homeschool-type fashion, Maureen is coming to us live from a playground beside the library where her kids are busily occupying themselves so she can get a little bit of work done, right?

Maureen:  That’s right, a typical day in my life.

Chris:  But you know, that is one of the great things about working from home and homeschooling and having that freedom and I know some people would probably say, “Freedom?  What are you talking about?”  But that freedom to be able to do these kinds of things with your kids and to provide for your kids but at the same time be able to work a little bit in here and there around their schedules…

Maureen:  That’s right.  We just are able to work everything into the schedule.  The kids are actually part of my work.  I write for part time and what I write about them and they’re my best editors, my best critics.

Chris:  And some of the books Maureen has out right now are The Catholic Homeschool Companion which you want to tell us about a little bit about that one in particular?

Maureen:  Sure, the Catholic Homeschool Companion is a book that Sophia Institute Press published and really a labor of love.  It’s a book that was four years in the making.  We, Rachel Mackson, my co-author or co-editor, I should say, and I went out to the Catholic home schooling community and we asked veteran homeschoolers, new homeschoolers, well-known homeschoolers to write for us and we have 43 authors in this book.  It’s a collection of essays covering every topic imaginable and we did it like that one because it’s a reader.  It’s easy for a homeschool mom to sit down, read a tidbit here and there.  If she’s struggling with math, she can read the chapter on math.  If she’s struggling with burnouts, Greg Popcak has awesome piece on burnouts and there’s a chapter for homeschool dad so she can hand it to her husband and she will get a lot out of reading that as well.  There are even essays in there for teenagers and homeschool graduates.  So we tried to cover a little bit of everything to give people a flavor for what Catholic homeschooling is all about as well as provide real rock solid information, the core things they need to get started and get going and even the veterans who have been homeschooling a long time have given me awesome feedback about this book.  It’s just helps rejuvenate their desire for what they were doing and get them going again.  And actually even gave them some new ideas to implement into their homeschool.

Chris:  And then another topic that you were very passionate about, I can tell, is literature.  Your newest book is For the Love of Literature from Ecce Homo Press and you want to tell us just about what was involved in putting that book together, what it covers, why this focus on literature in your teaching and your speaking?

Maureen:  Sure, For the Love of Literature is actually 13 years in the making.  That came about because I learned very early on that my children responded well to literature reading.  Biographies, learning history through historical fiction, reading really fun interesting books.  And we kind of shy from the textbooks.  I just having gone to public school and just really had kind of an aversion to textbooks and I never loved history until I became a homeschoolers and started reading real books about battles and heroes and et cetera.  So I developed a passion and the children caught on to that.  So the subtitle For the Love of Literature Teaching Core Subjects through Literature and when I did is, I just started keeping lists of all the books we read because I knew I had six more children coming behind my oldest child and didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with each student.  And so that list grew and grew and eventually became this book.  For the Love of Literature has a reading list of 950 books which I have separated by school subjects and then broken down further by age level and included adult books too.  So preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, adult books.  Everything is coded and organized in a way so the homeschool mom working with multiple children can work with this and each book all three or four sentence descriptions so you know what the book is about and if it’s Catholic, it’s coded for that so you know you’re getting a good Catholic book and just it’s gotten a great feedback on this book.  Parents can take it to the library with them, to the used book sale with them and find good books that feed their children.

Chris:  And then you’ve also got a couple other books coming out in the next year or so that are continuations of this theme of finding good books for use in your home schooling.

Maureen:  It’s interesting.  I picked up a book one day from the library.  I believe it was Books for Children Who Hate to Read and one of my children’s friends was over and he said, “I’m so tired of books like that.  I wish someone would write a book called Books for Children who Love to Read.  And my children have a love for reading and most of their friends do.  I don’t know if it’s the nature of what we’re doing as homeschoolers or what but…

Chris:  My kids love audio books.  They’ve just started…my 7-year-old and my 8-year-old, they’ve got these little CD players for Christmas and they have started walking around the house in the last few weeks with audio books that they got from the library.

Maureen:  Oh we are big audio book people.  I have one son who has a bit of an aversion to reading and he loves audio books.  And on trips, we’ve taken long trips to Canada and Missouri and other places, Colorado, and nothing better than a book on tape to share with the whole family.  What a great way to share literature.

Chris:  Well, I figure that they must be just like their father too because I used to be a very prolific book reader but at least in recent time, I just don’t have time to pick up the hard cover, hard copy books as much as I do have time to throw podcasts into my mp3 player and listen to them while I’m driving or while I’m doing chores around the house or things like that.

Maureen:  Right and books on paper are so expensive though.  Everyone needs to go to their library and see what their library has as well as encourage Catholic publishers to come out with good books on tape.  I’ve seen actually a few Scott Hahn titles and others at my library.  *** [00:08:16] books has a few.  Another resource is the internet.  There is a project which is…it’s escaping my mind right now but I’m sure you can find it.  If you Google it, where they are taking books that are now in public domain and putting them on audio and you can download them from the internet for free.

Chris:  Yeah, I’ve heard about that project as well but I have not looked it up yet.

Maureen:  Gutenberg!  It’s the Gutenberg Project.  I’m pretty sure that’s it.

Chris:  Oh!  So certainly there’s a resource there and then there are also some people like Joe McLean over from the Catholic Podcast.  He has recently started putting the early letters of the Church into an audio format that you can download and listen to for those people who want to learn more about the Church fathers but don’t have time to pick up those voluminous huge things to dig through but just want to be able to listen to those on go as well so there’s…I think there’s going to be a tremendous outpouring of public domain titles just across the secular and religious world being picked up and recorded over the next few years.

Maureen:  Well the internet is a great resource to be able to share that.  One of the problems I hear though with are that these aren’t usually professionally done so sometimes you get a great reader and sometimes you don’t.  But it’s free and you can always volunteer to read it yourself to read them.  And what a great idea to have the Church fathers and encyclicals and such on audio because at homeschoolers, a lot of our high schoolers are reading those.  I have a high schooler who enjoys reading encyclicals and he’s very…

Chris:  Well you can find that over at if you’re looking for it, if you like.

Maureen:  Okay, we’ll have to do that because he likes to listen to books on tape as he reads because even though he’s an excellent reader, with the dyslexia, I taught him to read using Orton-Gillingham and he learned to read but it’s easier for him to listen to a book on tape as he reads.  It takes him longer.  It takes him longer than most people.

Chris:  You see, I have children on the autism spectrum.  They’re probably…

Maureen:  Oh I have one of those too.

Chris:  …very high on the autism spectrum but at the same time, they sometimes need a little extra help as well.

Maureen:  Well, what’s interesting is my Asperger’s child took a long time.  He didn’t really take off reading until he was nine but it was just a matter of readiness.  Once he started reading, it’s interesting, Asperger’s children tend to be very bright and he’s just really taking off.

Chris:  Yes.

Maureen:  They are, aren’t they?  Oh and their cute.  I’ve never met an autistic child that just wasn’t beautiful.

Chris:  Extremely, extremely bright but I just have difficulty getting him off of whatever one track thought he’s got at the moment.

Maureen:  Yes, I can relate.  I also have an ADD child and we also have the drama queen child and a few others, but what a blessing for us at homeschoolers to be able to work with these special needs children.  We call them *** [00:11:38] one on one.  And it’s one thing when I did the Catholic Homeschool Companion.  There is a chapter just on special need and there’s also an appendices resources for special needs, people who are homeschooling special needs parents.  There are a lot of resources out there for your.  We’ve just been really blessed.  There are children who’ve been able to thrive in that environment.

Chris:  So what are some of the best homeschool resources that you have out there right now as a homeschooler.

Maureen:  Oh, gosh!  Its funny when I first began homeschooling…we’re going into our 14th year and there was really very little…

Chris:  Congratulations.

Maureen:  And I’m only halfway gone, so my oldest is going off to college in August and my youngest will be going into first grade, so we’re kind of at our midpoint here.

Chris:  It sounds like you’re a little…you should have another 14 years though.  I think they are…

Maureen:  No, no, we should have 11 years, right?

Chris:  Yeah, 11 or a little past halfway there.

Maureen:  That’s half the midway point.  Thank goodness.  When I first started, there was very little available which is probably one of the reasons I really got into using literature because most of our homeschooling took place in the library.  There were a lot of great things going on in those days when you had Mary Kay Clark who had just come out with her book Catholic Homeschooling and you had Seton Home Study and you had Rosary Bookstore.  Oh not Rosary Bookstore, I’m sorry, Our Lady of the Rosary and a few other resources.  But there wasn’t a lot to choose from and I think that because of homeschooling, one thing we’ve seen as a renewal of Catholic publishing.  Homeschoolers want Catholic science books, Catholic math books, Catholic textbooks which were kind of done away with over the years.  I remember when I was in grade school, I went to a Catholic grade school and public high school, so in grade school the schools are collecting money from the government.  The government wouldn’t pay for books that were…they were subsidizing the books and they wouldn’t pay for religious books.  So we had religion as a separate subject.  So now you have Catholic Heritage Curricula.  You have Seton Home Study and other companies making Catholic textbooks across all the subjects.  You have Stone Tablet Press which produces these lovely Catholic Readers.  I believe they’re Little Angel Reader which I use with my dyslexic children and all my other children and just really adorable, educational, the pedagogy, everything just comes together beautifully.  So you see a lot of great resources out there.  If you’re thinking about Catholic homeschooling, just get to a Catholic homeschool conference if you can.  You’ll be overwhelmed by all that’s offered out there.

Chris:  Most states have at least one Catholic homeschool conference every year.

Maureen:  Yeah, we just had our conference.

Chris:  I know Indiana does and Illinois did and those are the states where I live.

Maureen:  If you’re willing to drive a few hours, we just had our conference here in Michigan which is an awesome conference.  We got, oh I don’t know, 800 or 900 people come to Lansing for this conference.  Trust me, there are not 800 to 900 homeschoolers in Lansing.  They come from Ohio and the UP which is Upper Peninsula for you non-Michiganders.  Indiana, they come all over because it’s such a great conference and yes, they do have them in Colorado, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and California.  They’re everywhere.

Chris:  So if you’re looking for a homeschool conference in your state, just Google it.  I’m sure something will come up.  Even if it hasn’t happened this year, some states might be every other year or so.  But they usually have some kind.

Maureen:  For example, Wisconsin and Illinois, they alternate.  Wisconsin has their conference one year.  Illinois has theirs the next year.  Between Milwaukee and Chicago, they go back and forth.  Another thing you can do, if you can’t get to a conference, you get a book like the Catholic Homeschool Companion or another book.  There’s a good resource section and start looking into those resources or just Google Catholic homeschooling, see what comes up.

Chris:  You’ll never what will come up there.

Maureen:  I have Googled Catholic homeschooling, there’s a lot of great stuff that comes up.  I haven’t seen anything too bad.  But it’s nice to see things first hand.  So the thing to do too is to find other Catholic homeschoolers if you can’t get to a conference.  Start asking around; find other people in your community who are homeschooling.  One thing I found with homeschoolers is that they’re so open to helping other people.  Interestingly enough, my husband works in education.  He works in a charter school.  And I was talking to a superintendent, well a former superintendent.  He had started a program, a company that helps dyslexic children.  And he told me one day, “You know, I find it extremely interesting that when I worked in public schools and I went to parent meetings, they always talk about me and my child and how great my kid was which is fine.”  But he said when he went to homeschooling meetings, people always talk about things like, “How are you doing?  How can I help you?  Your child struggling in reading, here’s what we did.”  If you want to learn about homeschooling, just find other homeschoolers and they will be more than excited to help you.  I guarantee it and show you what they’re using, what products they use and what’s available out there.

Chris:  And you’ll probably even find people selling off old curriculum as well which is also real cool.

Maureen:  In smaller communities where you won’t find a conference, you probably will find used book sales and you do need to be careful.  If you’re going to a non-Catholic used book sale, you do need to keep your eyes open.  Some of the homeschooling curricula out there for example, Bob Jones University is very popular among Christian homeschoolers; however, you want to really watch out for those materials because they contain rabidly anti-Catholic materials.

Chris:  I think one thing to look for if you’re looking at those is any one that has say an admonition to celebrate reformation day, don’t get that.

Maureen:  That would be a good rule of thumb.

Chris:  My wife used to participate in some general Christian homeschool coops and then they’d have these reformation day parties and she will just be like, “Nope, we’re not going there.”

Maureen:  I don’t think that we need to exclude ourselves.  For example, my kids participate in science Olympiad and scouts which is a mixture of the Catholic and Christian homeschooling communities.  Actually, what happened where I’m from, we just moved, but from my former city, our Catholic homeschooling group started because there was a statement of faith that was required to be signed by all members and we as Catholics could not signed this statement of faith.  It included that we believe in faith alone gets us to heaven and a few other things we could not sign.  We do need to kind of…we couldn’t joint the Christian homeschooling group for that reason.

Chris:  In our area and we have gotten quite a lot out of some of the general Christian homeschool groups that we’ve been part of.  We ran into a situation like that and my wife actually went and talked to the director of the program about it and they said, “Well just cross out the thing you can’t signed.”  And they were like, “Okay, that’s fine.”

Maureen:  Yes, don’t be afraid to bring it up because I did bring it up with the leaders and eventually they did get rid of the statement of faith after a while.  So yeah don’t be afraid to bring it up and act in charity of course when doing so.  We all need to build each other up and work with another.  In smaller communities, you may not have enough Catholic homeschoolers to form your own support group.  For example, our science Olympiad, we need at least 15 students on the team.  So you need a fairly good-sized community to build such a team.

Chris:  Okay.  We are going to take a short break here to hear from our sponsor, but when we come back we will be talking more with Maureen Wittmann about the state of homeschooling right now and anything else she has to say of wisdom to all of us out there in the field who are doing homeschooling here and there.  This is the Catholic Spotlight.

Chris:  And we’re back on the Catholic Spotlight with Maureen Wittmann talking about homeschooling and homeschooling resources, homeschooling challenges, homeschooling suggestions from a homeschooling mom who has been doing this longer than I’ve been married but hey that’s all right!  By the way, I’m sure that you’re not old.

Maureen:  No, I’m only 29, yeah.

Chris:  Absolutely, that’s awesome that you were able to…

Maureen:  …with homeschooling so that’s 15.

Chris:  Doing 15, wow!

Maureen:  Actually, I’d made the decision to homeschool 10 years before I ever even had children, so I was late having *** [00:22:40]

Chris:  I understand.  Homeschooling is one of those things that you really do have to make a conscious decision long before it ever happens because if you don’t go into marriage with your spouse and having that understanding that this is what we’re going to do; the likelihood of it actually happening is pretty low, I think.

Maureen:  I have seen a number of women who really wanted to homeschool and their husbands put their foot down and said no and the other way around, I’ve had men tell me, “I wish my wife had homeschooled but she just doesn’t feel called to do it.  So that is…

Chris:  I know a couple of guys who homeschool because they wanted to see it happen and their wife wasn’t *** [00:23:29] with doing it.  They didn’t want to give up their careers so the guys actually gave up their career to come home and do the homeschooling.

Maureen:  I even knew when I…

Chris:  It felt that *** [00:23:42]

Maureen:  When I went to Missouri I knew a doctor whose wife had passed away and he cut back the part-time hours because she had homeschooled the kids with a large family and he wanted to keep it going so he took on, single dad and took on the homeschooling himself and then his mother who would baby sit the children would make sure they got their homework done while he was at work and it worked out beautifully.  So if you have a burning desire which I believe is probably one of the most important ingredients.  If you have the burning desire to do it, you can overcome some serious obstacles to accomplish it.

Chris:  And one thing that we’ve had to come to terms within our household is that we may not be able to homeschool all of our children and we actually have two of our children right now in a very orthodox Catholic school that we have determined that this is the best place for them right now and we’re not saying that that’s going to be the case all the way through school but for right now they need it, especially my son with some of his Asperger’s type problems.  He needs the extra structure that comes from having an all-day school.

Maureen:  Well, I would still say you’re a homeschooler.

Chris:  Whereas my youngest…

Maureen:  I would stay you’re still a homeschooler no matter where our children receive their formal academics.  We’re all homeschoolers because first of all your children learn the most important lessons from you.  To love Jesus, to walk the talk, manners, et cetera, and how well they do in school is dependent on you a lot, your attitude towards education, et cetera, and I imagined that you and your wife are very active participants in your children’s education and at the school and seeing to it especially your Asperger’s child gets the special program and things he needs.

Chris:  Yes, absolutely, and we do have two of our children but one is not school age yet who we’re working with at home still as well.  So we have, we’re actually a split household at the moment in terms of some are being homeschooled and some are being placed at the local Catholic school which was something that we felt that they needed at this time.

Maureen:  And then it’s fairly common, when I go to conferences and meet other homeschoolers and homeschoolers *** [00:26:35] local support group, you will find several families where parents and that’s what homeschooling is all about.  It’s finding the best resources, doing the best thing for their child.  You see a lot of this happening where some kids are in school and some aren’t and I started having an Asperger’s child myself.  My personal experience is that if they get older, it’s more difficult for them in a school setting because of their peers.  They tend to be integrated in a normal school setting and as much as the teachers adore these children and work to help them a lot of times they’re just totally beat up by their peers, and so for us, having our son at home where he’s loved unconditionally…Even though there are days he makes us nuts, I’ll admit it, but his self-esteem isn’t just beaten up each day, for us and you’re right, they’d need such structure and sometimes it’s hard for us to give him the structure he needs.

Chris:  So, what are some of the bigger challenges that are facing the Catholic homeschool community right now?

Maureen:  Oh, that’s a good question, I haven’t thought about that.  Well, if you asked me that 10 years ago…

Chris:  I’m trying to hold this back into an interview again rather than just talking about our kids…

Maureen:  Well, if you asked me the same question 10 years ago I would’ve said, “You know, we need more Catholic materials, we need more homeschooling materials.”  And as we’ve said previously you see a lot of it coming about.  In the past that there have been problems where different factions within homeschooling were feeling alienated from another but we see that coming around and healing more, too.  I think one thing we see in Catholic homeschooling right now is homeschooling’s gone kind of mainstream.  So we’re seeing more homeschoolers from a wider spectrum.  So, wherein the past, the Catholic homeschooler is going to be pretty conservative, pretty orthodox, and support groups, homeschooling communities may need to be dealing a little bit more with a wider spectrum of Catholics coming into their group.  So, if I had to think of something, that’s probably what it is.

Chris:  That sounds like a good response to me.

Maureen:  And one thing we found…

Chris:  Where do you see the future of Catholic homeschooling going right now?  The books are becoming more available, resources and materials are becoming more available.  Well, obviously, there’s still a long way to go.  However, where do you see that the Catholic homeschool as a whole, it seems to be heading and is that a good direction?

Maureen:  I think we’re heading in a very good direction and one thing we didn’t really mention it, too, is that there’s so many home study schools out there that are available, not just the curriculum and the books but support schools.  You have Mother of Divine Grace which is Laura Berquist’s school based on her book designing your own classical curriculum, you have Angelicum Academy which is based on the Great Books Academy but it’s Catholic, you have Regina Coeli which is an online college preparatory program, *** [00:30:17] where we’re going to speak to Catholic homeschooling going in the future, is taking more advantage of the internet, more online schools, more real-time classes via the internet.  We also have Seton Home Study and Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of Rosary who are more of textbook programs such as you would see with…I always think of the old 1950s school when I think of Seton and these other schools which are very good programs, too.  So, I think that’s where I see the future going.  I think the future is very bright and people have the resources out there to design their own but they also have the resources if they want to go with a home study school and they have the resources that if they want to start using technology, they want to start using the internet for their schools.

Chris:  Well, Maureen, it has been fun having this chance to talk with you today and including the time we spent before the interview which was even more…couldn’t get all that into the show, you know.

Maureen:  Right.

Chris:  And we really appreciate you coming on talking about the homeschooling status in the Catholic school’s system right now and we look forward to hearing from you when your new books come out.

Maureen:  Right, thank you.

Chris:  Anything else you want to share with our readers before we head out?

Maureen:  If you’re thinking about homeschooling, just my advice is to really pray over it.  Take it before the Blessed Sacrament and ask the Lord to lead you and if you think that you can’t do it because you’re not organized enough or you don’t have enough money or you don’t have the education, those are barriers easily overcome.  The most important thing is that you have the burning desire to do it and that you speak God’s will and moving forward.

Chris:  And for those of you who’d like to find out more about Maureen and where to contact her, she is over at  You can find her blog and more info about what she’s doing on a day-to-day basis there.

Maureen:  And no ‘h’.

Chris:  And no ‘h’, and if you have trouble still, just go over to Catholic Spotlight.  I’ll have a link in the show notes.

Maureen:  Thank you, Chris!

Chris:  God bless, Maureen!

Maureen:  God bless you, have a terrific day!

Thank you for listening to the Catholic Spotlight, a production of the Catholic company, your store for over 10,000 Catholic books and gifts that make a difference.  Find us online at  You can find more podcasts from the Catholic Spotlight at, and if you have a question, comment, or would like to be featured in our intro, call our voicemail at (206) 312-0069.  We would love to hear from you.  You can find more info on being featured in our intro at as well as announcements about future interviews.  Have a great day and God bless!


Transcript of Interview with Maureen Wittmann about Umbert the Catholic Homeschool Companion. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

Catholic Homeschool Companion is available at The Catholic Company.

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