Planting the Seeds
Twenty-seven years ago I sat on a plane with my very squirmy 5 month old on our way to my hometown to celebrate my brother’s wedding. Blessedly, we sat next to a very understanding middle-aged woman who, unbeknownst to her, changed the entire course of my family’s life.
During the flight, she exposed me to the idea of homeschooling. At the time it was still such a new and radical lifestyle. She described how she and her husband worked opposite shifts—she as a night court judge—so that one of them could always be home with their 5 children and they could educate them at home on their own schedule. Their routine also included an elaborate once a month meal planning, cooking, and freezing schedule. She opened my eyes to the possibilities and beauty of having complete creative control over our children’s education. Being sat next to this remarkable lady had to have been Divine Providence, because it led to one of the best decisions and greatest blessings of my life.
The Current Crisis
Here we are now, in our 4th month of a global crisis—with no real idea of when it may end or what may happen next. I imagine many of our readers have now experienced a type of homeschooling and are possibly looking at needing to continue into the next year or maybe even indefinitely. Many are likely wondering if what they experienced of public education at home is what homeschooling is really like (it is and it isn’t).
Just days ago our family completed its 21st year of homeschooling. We graduated our 5th of 7 children. She was the 3rd graduated completely. We’ve had two graduate from alternative settings. The plan today is to educate our youngest two at home through graduation.
Veteran Homeschooling Advice
If you are forced by circumstances or freely choosing to homeschool next year, this veteran homeschool mom has advice I hope to be of value.
1) Put God first. Pray about this decision and put your trust in God’s Providence. This is a big step and not one to take lightly or as a knee jerk decision out of frustration or fear.
If your family does take this path, start every school day with prayer. This can take so many wonderful forms—a morning offering, attending daily mass, reading through the mass readings for the day, praying a rosary are just a few ideas. Our family prays the Angelus, Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and a morning offering at the start of our day.
Make religion a focal subject of your homeschool. Read from the Bible, Church Fathers, and the Catechism as a family. Take this opportunity to put God back in school.
2) Spend time researching options and learn the laws regulating homeschooling in your state. Every state has it’s own laws regarding homeschooling. You can do an internet search for state regulations or use the information gathered by Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
3) Take the decision to homeschool or not year by year. Honestly, homeschooling is not for every family or every kid. Additionally, if 2020 shows us anything it is life changes very quickly and the choices we make today may not make any sense tomorrow. Finally, you may have access to something that fits your family’s needs better in the future. Kendra Tierney of Catholic All Year wrote an excellent article on how her family has navigated educational choices over the years. Our wonderful foundress, Martina, has also been very open about how her family has made schooling decisions from year to year and wrote about it here.
4) First year jitters can be eased by choosing a complete curriculum. There are a wonderful variety of full Catholic programs to choose from.
—Home School Connections
We started out using a pre-packaged program from Our Lady of the Rosary. After a year I found I preferred to pick and choose individual subjects from different curriculum and match them to each student’s individual interests and strengths.
5) Enlist support. You’ll need a cheer squad including your spouse, extended family, and other homeschooling friends. I’m not saying it cannot be done without support, but it definitely makes it easier if you have someone on board to help cheer you on during inevitable rough patches.
6) Do not stubbornly hold on to something that is not working. Every kid is different. Every year is different. The beauty of homeschooling is you can ditch what’s not working and try something else.
7) Embrace throw-away years. This is my own term for years when life throws unexpected wrenches into the works and homeschooling has to take a bit of a back burner. New babies, moves, family illness, pandemics (hahaha) can make sticking to hard core homeschooling extremely difficult. I discovered that if I focused on math and reading basics during a throw-away year our kids did not suffer academically and were able to catch up very easily the next year.
8) Nothing replaces a good plan. Plan out the entire year for each subject. Many curricula come with syllabi which can be very helpful in this regard and can do the planning for you. I use a two level system in which I plan out the entire year for each student and subject and then I write out a weekly plan for each student in their notebook over the weekend so they can see what is expected to be completed each day/week. Adequate planning keeps you on track and contributes to a sense of accomplishment.
9) To the extent that you are able, choose subjects and curricula that complement each child’s interests and strengths. One summer our oldest received a microscope as part of her online science program. Her younger brother was absolutely fascinated with the microscope and spent the summer looking at anything he could fit between the objective lens and the slide. I found a wonderful book on microscope science geared toward elementary school and we used that for his science curriculum that year. He loved it.
10) Enjoy this time with your children. Homeschooling is a lot of work and takes organization, time, and discipline but it can also be fun. If I’m completely honest here, I have not loved every minute of homeschooling, and our children will say the same, but I have absolutely loved the life.
Ten points doesn’t even touch on all you might need to know about homeschooling, but these are the things I feel to be the most important.
Are you an experienced homeschool parent? What would you add to this list? We’d love to see your ideas in the combox.