Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I Homeschool Like That

Unless you were homeschooled yourself (which I wasn't) the decision to homeschool your own kids can feel overwhelming in a thousand different ways. It's easy to look at a really easy-going homeschooling Mom and say, "I couldn't live like that, I need order and routine." Or to look at a homeschooling Mom who is really structured and say, "I couldn't live like that, I need more flexibility." 


I'll give you one guess as to which kind I am.

But the nice thing about homeschooling is that you don't have to do it anyone else's way. And really, you shouldn't try to.


I have posted before about the reasons, various and ignoble, that I homeschool. But, a really, really long time ago, Melissa asked on the Catholic All Year Facebook page how I chose my homeschool curriculum. So, I'm going to get right on answering that . . . but first, I'm going to tell you about the uniform thing.


My kids wear school uniforms because 1. They are adorable, and B. I don't like laundry. 


I should probably also say that I think it fosters a more serious academic environment or something, but really it's those two reasons. Also, Betty was the most concerned of anyone in the family when we pulled her older brother Jack out of Kindergarten at the parish school to start homeschooling. When I finally got her to tell me why, it was that she was upset that she wouldn't get to have a school uniform (she also wanted to have a sack lunch).



Girls' uniforms are from Land's End (school embroidery was only a penny extra, and then part of our purchase is donated to the school!) Boys' polos and shorts are from Gymboree.

Problem solved: uniforms for everyone (and they get a sack lunch once a week). Each summer, I let Betty pick out two uniforms for the girls. They get pretty worn out, so we don't keep them from year to year. And we pick two colors of polo shirts for the boys, which they wear with shorts year-round since we're in LA. The kids wear one uniform Monday and Tuesday, the other Wednesday and Thursday, and play clothes for park day on Friday.


They don't have to figure out what to wear each morning, I have half the laundry each week, I think they look super cute, and Betty's happy. Everyone wins.


For us.



we recite the pledge of allegiance

But here's the thing: if that sounds crazy to you, and the thing you like best about homeschool is that your kids can do it in their jammies . . . then you should totally do that. Because that's the beauty of homeschooling. It conforms to your family culture.


For the few weeks we were at a traditional school, I felt like it was constantly at odds with how I prefer to run my family. I had to change naptimes, and what I would normally let my kids eat for lunch, and the books I would like to have in my house, and Jack was really suffering our rules about screens and consumerism in a way he never had before. But now, I get to create the school that's just right for us. I think that's really the key to successful homeschooling.



we run laps around our cul-de-sac

When it came time to pick a homeschool curriculum, I didn't have to look for all that long. I looked at K-12, which seemed like a curriculum for a person who would just as soon have her kids in a traditional school, but for whatever reason that won't work. I looked at Seton, which seemed like a good fit for someone who wishes her kids could have gone to a parochial school in the 1960s. Everything I read about Catholic Heritage Curricula emphasized its "gentleness" to the point where I now imagine all children who use CHC to be sitting in a field of wildflowers being instructed by a wooly lamb. And then there was Mother of Divine Grace which seemed like it was made for someone who would prefer a one-room schoolhouse at the turn of the last century. Well, that was totally me. So I stopped looking.

All of those are caricatures, of course. And I know people who are successfully homeschooling with each of those options. But I really think that's the way to pick. Look into it, read about it, read on forums what people are saying about it, figure out the story it's telling, and decide if that's the story that fits with your family.



we do streches

and calisthenics: sit ups, push ups, and leg lifts. (Betty is totally better at push ups than her brothers.)

MODG just goes with my gut. It's the stuff I would have chosen if I was putting together my own curriculum and I knew where to find all that lovely, old, meaty, classical material. I like old-timey stuff. In their grammar book, my third-graders get to copy out a letter dated 1916, in which they inquire about the purchase of a rabbit. Love it. It's not for everyone, but it is for me.


I want to feel like my kids are really being challenged. I don't want "Handwriting Without Tears," (which I am not familiar with at all, so this is not a knock on that program and I'm sure it's lovely) I want "Handwriting You Almost to Death for Excellence in Handwriting." For sixth grade this year, we had a choice of grammar books. One was "Easy Grammar" the other was "Voyages in English." This was a no brainer for me. If they had offered a book called "Hard Grammar," I probably would have chosen that, but "Voyages in English" will have to do. At least it's copyright 1962 and has funny little drawings of elves in it.



We say our morning prayers: the Morning Offering and the Guardian Angel Prayer, then we say "good morning" to our own and everyone else's guardian angels.

My point on all of this is, when it comes to picking a curriculum: DON'T LISTEN TO ME. Don't listen to anyone. Only you can find the one that sings for your family. And if it doesn't happen to already exist, then you can put it together yourself. And you can always change it.


When I buy books for a school year, I immediately mentally write off that expense as a done, sunk cost. I never tell myself, "Oh we'll use this for x-number of years." Because if it doesn't work for us, it's gone. I've been really fortunate to really like almost everything about the MODG curriculum. So I have done very little substituting (except for YOU: Writing Road to Reading <shaking fist>). But I would substitute anything, in a heartbeat, to make my curriculum work in our family.



Betty and Jack made traditional German Schultuete Cones for all the kids, full of their new supplies. Plus some (kinda) upcycled pencil cans.

So, if you read my blog and think to yourself, "Wow, she is just my kind of crazy," then please do consider Mother of Divine Grace, and uniforms, and gathering your combed and dressed and breakfasted and done-with-chores children around the flag at 8:30am sharp. But if you read my blog and think to yourself, "How could she . . . Why would she . . . Couldn't she just . . . What in the . . . ?," then please DO NOT think that homeschooling couldn't possibly be for you. Because there are a million ways to do it right, and you get to find your own.



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42 comments:

  1. I really appreciate this post! I t hink my oldest is a Betty :) We're just getting started in this homeschooling thing but I picture us out there in the field of wildflowers :) Only I can imagine my daughter wanting uniforms so we'll see about that...

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  2. I love that you use MODG. When I heard about it, I was super geeked. it's just great to hear it is as good as it looks. I've got a couple years before homeschooling, as my oldest is two, but I the kind of person already excited about curriculum.

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  3. I'm not Catholic or a mom--I'm not even married--but I LOVE your blog. It's so fun and easy to read, and I think your lifestyle and philosophy are great. It makes me excited to have my own family one day.

    I hope this isn't too weird of a comment XD

    ~Stephanie

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  4. Not having been homeschooled myself, my biggest question about homeschooling is what does Frankie do all morning while the rest of the kids are doing schoolwork? I just have an 18 month old right now and she is happiest at my side all day long (either playing or reading with me or "helping" with chores.) I can totally imagine doing the actual schooling part of homeschool, but it is really hard for me to imagine (in my current stage of life) toddlers playing independently for a few hours.

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    1. I've homeschooled for 8 years (several with TWO toddlers!). You find "work" for them to do at the table. Mine were happiest with their siblings. Coloring, sorting, toys at the table, etc. There are all kinds of ideas on the internet for this. Also, we homeschool at the kitchen table, which opens into our backyard, so on nice days, I would leave the door open so the toddlers could roam in and out (fenced in yard!).

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    2. We do pretty much what Kris does. We do school at the dining room table which is adjacent to our playroom and a door to the backyard, so he goes in and out with the other preschooler, and sometimes sits at the table and scribbles. I'm sure it would be easier to homeschool without a toddler, but I've honestly never done it, so I wouldn't know!

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  5. We use MODG as well...although we definitely don't do uniforms of flag pledges. And, we chose the Easy Grammar option. :) And we use Handwriting without Tears. I do love MODG for most things though...especially the way it does history and language arts and religion and incorporates poetry memorization.

    We also have that same San Damiano crucifix..I love that image.

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  6. I love this post! I've homeschooled for 8 years, starting when my older boys were 2nd and 5th grade (they are now 9th and 12th!). And you are SO right - everyone's homeschool looks different. Even people who use the same or a similar curriculum do things differently to fit the needs of their families. I started out using Kolbe Academy, which is a classical Catholic curriculum along the lines of MODG. But MODG was a little too "touchy feely" for me and I liked the structure of Kolbe. As the years have gone on, I've subbed out this and that from Kolbe, as I discovered what I liked and didn't like. And now my "curriculum" is really a mix of some Kolbe, some CHC (I like their spelling and handwriting), some independent stuff, etc. I'm pretty structured with the school aspect (I use Homeschool Tracker for lesson plans, grades, report cards, etc.) but we're also "that" family that does school in our pj's (I'm still sitting in mine at lunchtime!. People always say to me that they "can't imagine homeschooling" and I always encourage them to NOT look at me, because my family is our own unique world and you have to find what fits for YOUR family to make it work.

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  7. Can I just say that this made me laugh...a lot...but in a good way!

    And I was homeschooled and homeschooling still scares me. And I guess my mom liked the 1960s parochial school thing cause I graduated from Seton for highschool and I can say that it was probably tougher than university!

    I just really love that now there are so many good, Catholic options in homeschooling land. When I was homeschooled most of the decent resources were so evangelical. I've grown to just ignore evangelicalism by reflex.

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  8. Love it. I *was* homeschooled myself, K-12, and I think we were pretty eclectic except for a few years here and there (those were mostly Seton years). In some ways I think it makes me TOO laid back because I haven't really started to think about what I want to do with our kids yet, but then again, I have some time to decide. :)

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  9. LOVE this! I was homeschooled all the way through my school years and now am a sophomore in college. We did uniforms for a few years, and still look back on the traditional picture on the first day of school we would take all lined up in front of the garage door. Haha! We used Kolbe Academy which worked wonderfully for us. I love how homeschooling is so specific and can fit any family's needs!

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  10. Your caricatures are spot on! hahahaha Do you know what I love about this post? I don't want my children to learn this way, but I completely respect that this is the way for your family to learn! I even struggle with the label "homeschooler" and I much prefer to say that "my children will be learning at home" ;) teehee. (Oh, I was schooled at home 5th grade on, the first few years we used Seton, then Our Lady of the Rosary). I do love that the girls' uniforms are pink, and I wish you many blessings and much joy!

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  11. I don't homeschool but we have pretty conservative Catholic schools here in Wichita that really push the curriculum. I am a teacher and totally get the draw to homeschooling, I would do it your way too...uniforms, structure, prayer time, the whole she-bang! Keep up the great work. Your kids are darling, by the way.

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  12. I know you didn't mean to knock Handwriting Without Tears but it was developed by an occupational therapist for children with fine-motor skills delays or other special needs. It is not meant for typically-developing children or as a general education handwriting curriculum. Since you don't know anything about it, I feel you should know that. I'm particularly sensitive about this because two of my sister and brother-in-law's four children have special needs and they have accepted their vocation as parents to these children with unbelievable humility and grace. Excellence as you characterized it above is not achievable by all.

    I am a certified teacher and administrator with 11 years in Catholic schools and I now stay home with our 9-month old. My husband and I have discussed it and we would primarily choose to home school if we felt the needs of our children weren't adequately addressed in Catholic schools (i.e. if our children have special needs).

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    1. Oops..I meant to leave my name: Anne.

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  13. I have to say - I do think you're my kind of crazy. I feel as if we are somehow long lost sisters or you're just reading my mind. I am so glad I have found your blog. I was planning to homeschooling this year and have been for the last 3 years but this year we put our oldest into a small catholic school where they have daily mass, good academic programs, adoration, and do stations. I love MODG for our family as well - for my younger set of children. I did add a separate Latin and science program but other than that it works well. Never thought to do uniforms. So very smart. I'm drowning in laundry.

    Loved the article also. Didn't feel pressure to home school and it didn't make me feel not Catholic enough because my oldest is in a school - it was just good useful information. Kuddos.

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  14. My ideal homeschool would be very much like yours, I believe in schedules, structure and hard work for children. Unfortunately, the 2 years I tried to homeschool we looked more like unschoolers!

    While I would love if I could pull that off and be comfortable with it, it just did not sit well with my conscience. So all my kids are in public school now, and it's not as bad as I thought it would be.

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  15. I just love those cute pink uniforms. Hope they don't show too much dirt.
    Nanacamille

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  16. Kendra, this is great. Can I just tell you that when I finished high school and my dad said, "Well, the rest of your life will be free dress days.", I sank down a bit. I didn't like free dress days because having to think of what to wear was such a pain to me. I liked getting my uniforms out and choosing between a navy skirt, gray or plaid or my culottes(kid you not!). My kids like the idea of uniforms and I resist but now I wonder why.
    Betty is so lucky to be wearing a skirt before 6th grade! When I was in grade school we could not wear the skirts until we were in 6th. All the Tierney kids look great.

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  17. As a great supporter of uniforms for school I think yours are great and the girls skirts / dresses look lovely and set just the right tone.

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  18. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Love, did I say that? This is the best homeschool post I've ever read, hands down. yes to pledge of Allegiance, yes to greeting guardian angels, YES to times and exercise in the morning. *sigh* I just can't wait!!!!! (my oldest is only two, hahahahaha!!)

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  19. Okay, so can I admit something? I originally found your blog a while ago because I was searching "uniforms for homeschool?" because I was really drawn to the idea and mentioned it to my husband but I laughed at it and thought surely I'd be laughed out of any homeschool co-ops if I dared to do it, lol! My husband said "why not do it?" and I decided to do a search. Your blog came up, and I've been reading regularly ever since, haha!

    Anyway, I love this post, truly a gem! And I love the uniforms, we did end up getting uniform-ish clothes ourselves and my oldest loves his new clothes and he looks super sharp in them. Your girls' pink uniforms are especially cute. Do you use the same colors every year for consistency or just pick a totally new color/style with Betty each year?

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    1. She picks a totally new uniform each year. With the girls being five years apart it doesn't really make sense to keep them as they are outgrown each year. Last year was a red and green plaid jumper with a white blouse and a red cris-cross tie. Also cute. But she really wanted the big girl skirt this year. And pink!

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  20. Kendra, this is a gem. I subscribe to your posts but I think Yahoo has been spamming them for awhile because I haven't seen one in weeks. Argh.

    I think you and I have a lot in common (my-kind-of-crazy common) but also a lot of differences. Now that I' m back in the L.A. Area, we should get our broods together.

    I really love what you have to say about the diversity of homeschooling families. There are so many ways to homeschool, and sometimes the only thing they have in common is that parents are the primary educators. I consider that pretty much the most important thing, and I love how you explained it here. Good stuff.

    Oh, and the uniforms? To die for. Must look them up for my kids. I am absolutely drowning in laundry and I only have 4 kids!

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    1. Michaela, I'd love to get together! Email me.

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  21. Okay Kendra, help me understand how using uniforms will cut down on my laundry. I NEED to cut down on my laundry. But don't your kids just change into play clothes once school is out for the day? Or not? I can't figure out how it will ligthen my load (literally) because my kids get so dirty when they play outside or do art projects in the afternoon or whatever. Do your kids wear their uniforms all day or do they change after school time?

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    1. They don't change clothes after school unless they have a sports practice to go to. They wear each uniform two days. The lighter colored stuff does sometimes get a little dirty, but I'll usually just do a little spot cleaning on it in the morning, or just not worry about it.

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  22. Love everything about this! The more I read your blog the more I wish you were my neighbor.

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  23. I got unreasonably excited that you use MODG. I was homeschooled and we used MODG and now I am a teacher for them. :)

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    1. I am single Catholic Parent and need to work and unhappy with public schools any advice.

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    2. Adriana, I know families who have sent their kids to public and ended up with great, happy, well-formed kids, and even vocations. It can be done. You just have to create YOUR family culture so that they know that what everyone does isn't necessarily what they do.

      But if you feel called to homeschool, keep praying and trying to make it happen. Some moms are able to work a full time job from home or with help from family members and still homeschool. Sometimes it would take a miracle. But you never know when you'll get one of those.

      But don't think homeschooling is the only "Catholic" way to do it. It's not.

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  24. I was homeschooled, and used "Voyages in English"! My baby is only 5 months old, but we plan to homeschool her when she's old enough. Your homeschooling routines sound very much like the way I was raised, except that we didn't have the uniforms. I love that idea!

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  25. We home schooled the four oldest children for eleven years. I think your advice about choosing to suit your family to be far the best advice ever. Over the years, we used such a huge variety of curriculum depending on the needs of the children at the time. I think we've used something from each of the programs you mentioned. We even added two more little ones into the mix when we were about halfway through and made different choices based on having babies in the house. The only regret I have is that the children did not play high school sports and I so wish they had. Our school district would not allow it so we did lots of city sports and other activities. The oldest will be graduating from college next spring at the ripe old age of 20. Homeschooling is definitely worth the time and effort and can be customized to your family. It does take a lot of dedication on the part of the parents though and your house never gets clean because you are all living in it all the time.

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  26. I am considering MODG next year and just LOVE this post. You are making me want to go buy uniforms for my children, especially my kindergartener who doesn't take school seriously (he gets tons of playtime but when I say it's time for All About Spelling, or his math workbook, it's a complete meltdown!) I am so with you with the Hard Grammar and with the handwriting too.

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  27. Awesome!!! I am pulling my boys from public school and I fully intend to homeschool with uniforms. I keep reading about homeschooling in pj's and was wondering if I'm too structured for homeschool...lol...thanks for this post.

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  28. Thanks for sharing this. I never thought of uniforms and I love it. I am also looking into MODG for this year so this post is right up my alley. Thanks!

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  29. Have you blogged about why you choose to enroll? I gather that it helps meet the state of CA requirements, but if you didn't have to worry about that what age would you say enrolling would be ideal... for your family of course... I will pick and choose ;)

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    1. You don't have to enroll to use MODG curriculum for sure. But we do because I like the gentle oversight of the educational specialists, I like that they keep our transcripts, I like that they cover our butts for state requirements. I also use their online classes for my middle grade students, and you have to be enrolled for that.

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  30. This is a great post, Kendra! I'm just starting to homeschool my youngest (I wasn't homeschooled and neither was my husband). It's a doozy! :) Thanks for your advice! I loooooove the uniforms! And the flagpole. My kids would absolutely adore that stuff. It might be time to write another one of these posts... unless I'm missing it? :)

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  31. Please write more homeschool posts Kendra!

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  32. Thanks or sharing about your curriculum choices and the creative uniform idea. You really encouraged me. Thanks

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