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10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

Recently, in a Catholic Homeschool group on Facebook, a mom commented about her doubts regarding homeschooling. My dear friend and blogger over at Totus Tuus Family, Allison, replied one of the sweetest and most perfect replies, she said,

“”If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it. I had MANY of those same doubts. I read lots of homeschool and Catholic homeschool books looking for those who had conquered the obstacles I perceived and that combined with prayer fortified me. Am I perfect at it? No, no one is…no education is perfect. Let God work on your fears, it sounds like He IS working on your heart.”

This got me thinking about my own homeschooling journey which is only four years young. How did I get here and what helped me stick with it? Then I wondered how many other moms out there on the fence about homeschooling and have not because of fear or lack of knowledge. Is this you? Have you ever thought about homeschooling your children? Ever wonder what it is all about? So you are considering homeschooling and wonder – what do I do next? Here is an easy 10 step approach to commence Catholic Homeschooling:

Step 1: Pray. Ask the Lord to help you and your husband discern if He is calling your family to the life changing decision to home educate. (note: praying about it might not ease that unsure feeling but it will help you realize if you even want to go to step two). You might want to go to Adoration, go to daily Mass, do a Novena as a family, and pray often until you clearly hear what the Lord wants of you.

Step 2: Why Homeschool? Make a list of the pros and cons of homeschooling your family. Ask yourself questions like: Why do I want to homeschool? Do you like the choices you have available in the public, private, or Catholic schools in your area? If public schooling is not an option, can you afford the other two options (Catholic schools have scholarships if you cannot afford it, please look into those). What do you want your children to accomplish through their education? How long will you homeschool? What grades do you want to homeschool? (some families homeschool K-12, others just K-8, others just high school). Also, talk to your children (if they are old enough) about homeschooling, they may have some questions that you would want to ease them with. Don’t shy away from taking children homeward bound from regular schooling environments.

Step 3: Philosophy Statement. Take the answers to step two and write a mission statement for your family. State the reasons why you are homeschooling and how you want to accomplish this. Home educating is more than a full time job; it is a life-altering decision. When the schooling gets tough, this mission statement (which I also suggest you print and place in the room you will be homeschooling) will help you recall why you took on this beautiful journey. This statement should be written by both you and your husband (even if you are the main educator), and will help you stay focused on the ultimate goals for your family. Here are some examples of Homeschooling Mission Statements.

What Mary Kay Clark says about this: “An important first step is to write out a Statement of Philosophy, to make it clear to yourself, your spouse, and your children what you hope to accomplish. Why is a Home School necessary? What are your purposes? What are the values you intend to impart to your children? Your Statement of Philosophy should be in positive terms however, and not simply reflect your objections to something in the local schools. It is vital that you and your spouse agree on the Statement and, if you enroll in a Home Study School, their Statement of Philosophy should agree with yours. Your statement could prove vitally important as evidence to local authorities of your “religious convictions” and “sincerity of belief.””

 

Step 4: Research Laws. Find out what the laws and legislation say about homeschooling in your state are. Every state has different requirements from what the educator needs to have to what each child is required to do to what age you are legally bound to start. The Home School Legal Defense Association is a great source for finding these laws for home educating in your particular state. If your child has already been schooling, what do you need to do to register your school with the local district/state and unenroll him from his current school?

Step 5: Read. There are many wonderful books about homeschooling out there and particular to Catholic Homeschooling. The main ones that come to mind are these: Catholic Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents by Mary Kay Clark (of Seton Homeschool), Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist (of Mother of Divine Grace), Homeward Bound: A Useful Guide to Catholic Home Schooling by Kimberly Hahn (yes, Scott Hahn’s lovely wife), Catholic Homeschool Companion by Maureen Whitman and Rachel Mackson, and A Haystack Full of Needles by Alice Gunther.

Step 6: Curriculum Approaches. You will need to decide which curriculum approach you want to take with your family. This depends on many factors including, but not limited to: the size of your family, the ages of your children, and what your budget is (but please don’t let money stop you!), your child(ren)’s style of learning, and your teaching style. Ask yourself, do you want to enroll your child(ren) in a program or do you want to keep grades and records on your own? Do you want to write your own lesson plans or do you want to buy them already done? Also, refer back to your mission statement to make decisions on curriculum approaches. Are you going all Catholic books, some Catholic books, all secular? You might want to also order catalogs from the different Catholic homeschooling providers to get an idea of what they are all about, what books they provide, etc. You can join Catholic Book Swap on Facebook or CathSwap on Yahoo Groups to ask questions about books and curriculum as well.

Step 7: Set Measurable Goals. Make sure you go child by child and set goals for each child. These goals should include the common core subjects in addition to extracurricular goals. Also consider the abilities of your child(ren) when setting these goals. Ask yourself: What do you want your child to learn and how will you track their progress? What are the state’s or district requirements of each child at their grade level? Make sure you divide the list into short-term and long-term goals. Please note that these are to guide you and not suppress you; they will help pave the road to a successful homeschooling experience. They may change in time but at the heart of it they should also mimic your school’s Mission Statement. Your goals should include: Cognitive Goals, Spiritual Goals, Social Goals, and Physical Goals. Goals should be written, challenging, measurable and specific, tied to a deadline (per quarter or semester), and not to conflict with each other. Having goals helps keep the children and teacher focused, motivated, and on track. Reaching goals will give you a sense of accomplishment. Not reaching goals gives you specific insight on what subjects need more attention and review.

Step 8: Homeschool Conferences. If you can, attend a local homeschool conference. Local conferences are a great way to connect with others in your area that are also contemplating or those that are “experts” at this. Also, a great way to learn more about what home educating is really about (vs. what society thinks). Going to a conference? Use my Conference Survival Kit found on my personal blog. I find homeschool conferences revitalizing! The speakers are often experts in the field of homeschooling. If you can make it out to the Immaculate Heart of Mary National Conference sponsored by Seton Homeschool out in D.C., please do! Last year was the first year I attended. I got to meet many of the wonderful women that have taught me so much in the past years about homeschooling via their blogs or online. I also got to spend time learning more about our beautiful Catholic Faith and even to go to Confession, it’s like a mini-retreat of sorts! Plus, you get to go out to lunch and dinner with like-minded friends! Watch their video.

Step 9: Local Support Groups. Look for a local associations that will support your mission and curriculum style. You can learn so much from local homeschoolers! Look for Catholic groups in your area that will help you keep a familiar and similar vision for your school. Some of these groups have email lists on Yahoo Groups, you can start asking questions there. Some groups require you join their group before inviting you to their Yahoo mail list. Catholic Homeschool Support has a great search engine to find a support group in your area. If your group has a Co-Op, consider contacted them and asking if you can visit for a couple of hours or a day so you can see what they do. Co-Ops can be a great way to have encouragement the first years homeschooling. Sometimes local groups are not available, thanks to technology, we have online support groups available. On Facebook there is a Catholic Homeschool Moms group you can ask to join. In that group of over 600 moms, you can post questions and ask for advise whenever needed. Some of the Yahoo Groups are also online only such as Catholic Homeschooling. Find those available to you. You can also search Catholic Homeschooling Blogs for suggestions and advice. Just be careful not to overwhelm yourself with looking at ALL that others are doing!!!

Step 10: Get Organized. If you read through my list, you noticed I kept saying homeschooling is a life-altering journey; well it is. Homeschooling is not a schooling choice alone. Many people have used A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot to organize their homes and make the children managers of their homes along with mom. Personally, I love Laura Dominick’s book A Plan for Joy in the Home. Both books take you step by step on how to create a schedule for chores and schooling. You will love it!

Now, It is my hopes that after 15 years in the classroom and four years homeschooling, this little list will help others who are contemplating home educating their children. Will this be an easy task, you ask? NO. Anything good and fulfilling is not easy in life. Is it possible to homeschool? Absolutely, do not fear! My very wise friend, Nola, puts it best:

“Personally, I think anyone can make it [homeschooling] work. We are our children’s best teachers. No one starts out thinking it will be easy, or they’ll be “good” at it. It comes down to priorities and goals. And experience. I think if a parent thinks homeschooling is superior to away school then the only thing standing in their way is fear. Fear can be overcome!…The only thing you need is prayer. I struggle all the time with whether I should be doing this (and she’s only 6!!!). But those fears and doubts are not from God. No more than the fears and doubts in marriage, in parenting, in anything that is good. Pray for clarity and peace. He is always there for us.”

 

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DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? MORE TO COME:

On a side note, some of the contributors of Catholic Sistas are already homeschooling and often we give each other support in this area of our lives. We have now created a team that will be presenting different topics on Catholic Home Educating. In our first series on Catholic Homeschooling we will cover different topics regarding this complex yet fulfilling decision for your family. Join us in this journey of Catholic Homeschooling 101 where we will cover the following tips, tricks, and ideas! I’ll be talking about:

  • About Goals
  • About Learning
  • About Life
  • About Growing Up
  • About Fun
  • About Sleep
  • About Letting Go
  • About Love
  • About Procrastination
  • About Time Management
  • About Work
  • and more…