Monday, November 17, 2014

Maybe Homeschooling Isn't For Me?

MAILBAG TIME!


Question:


My oldest is now approaching Kindergarten age and, honestly, I am getting cold feet about the whole homeschooling thing. Sending him to a Catholic school nearby is oh-so-tempting. Even though I'm drawn to it, the whole homeschool thing is very daunting to me -- especially since he is a typical boy that doesn't love sitting still and learning his letters. HOW do you homeschool young kids?

Answer:

I honestly believe that homeschooling is almost a vocation. Which means, like marriage and the priesthood, it is a good and holy thing that isn't for everyone. If you are meant to be a homeschooler, your heart will be restless until you make the leap of faith and do it. But if you are meant to be a missionary into the school system, then homeschooling is going to be a bad choice for you. (I say ALMOST a vocation because, of course, things can change and while I know I'm meant to homeschool THIS YEAR, things might change and that's okay.)

You need to pray about it and follow your gut, knowing that you can always change your mind, year by year, or even mid-year.

But know that homeschooling is NOT a requirement for good Catholics. Some of us have to be out there in the public schools and the parish schools volunteering and interacting and complaining and influencing and being visible. And people who say that homeschooling is the ONLY choice for God-fearing Catholics because of x, y, and z are mistaking their own personal vocation for a universal requirement and they should cut it out.

As for homeschooling itself, if you're meant to do it, or need to do it because of circumstances, of COURSE you can do it! It's going to come more easily to some moms than to others, but I'm convinced that anyone who feels that homeschooling is the best option for her family CAN successfully homeschool.

When my oldest started Kindergarten, I had him in preschool two days a week, and we did two days a week of homeschool, and we took Fridays off. Our homeschool days lasted less than an hour, during the baby's morning nap. The first couple years are REALLY low stakes, and I found them to be really manageable.

I've never had much pushback on schooling, probably mostly because Jack was excited to do it, and the others have followed his lead. But for my kids who are, let's say, not SUPER excited to do it, I just try to keep a really positive outlook and be consistent about when and how we do school, so there is always the expectation that this is just what we do and there's no use complaining. 

I keep each subject REALLY short, 3-5 minutes on each thing, then maybe 10 minutes on 100 Easy Lessons for reading/phonics. We just do the lesson part, not the handwriting. We do handwriting in a different book.

I think the very most important part of homeschooling (and ANY parenting in general, no matter the schooling) is that I love my kids and enjoy spending time with them . . . and they can recognize that. Secondly, I'm consistent about having school time and completing our schoolwork each week. It has been a good strategy for us, but that's probably more of a family culture decision. Maybe other family homeschools thrive on flexibility and more of a child-led approach.

The most painful lesson I have learned over eight years of homeschooling, is: what I do doesn't really matter nearly as much as I thought. All the stuff I was in a raging panic over, all the stuff I had my kids in tears over, none of it was in my control to begin with. Especially with learning to read. I've had two that didn't learn to read well until second grade, one after three years of tears and shouting and accusations and misery, and one after basically being neglected for a school year because I was really, really sick. Both started reading in second grade, just fine. It wasn't up to me, that was just when they were going to learn to read.

I know this seems like a HUGE decision, but really, it isn't. Any schooling decision you make will have its good parts and bad parts. There's no perfect solution, just the thing that's going to work best for your family this year.

cheers,
Kendra


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or a child psychologist or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

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24 comments:

  1. This is encouraging to read. My kids are still babies but I am really back and forth about whether we should homeschool. I like your take on it being a vocation. I worry most about being disciplined enough as routine is not really my forte. (Although motherhood has helped that)

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  2. Terrific answer. I'm pretty flexible in our approach and still worry after four years that I'm not doing all the things, but when I step back, I see the good it creates in our family and know that it's really where we're supposed to be right now.

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  3. I totally agree with you; I love homeschooling, but don't think it is for everyone. I do think, however, that a lot of people don't homeschool out of fear, which can be confusing. Sometimes fear is a sign you're not meant to do a thing, but a very often it's a sign that what you're about to do is important enough for you to be tempted away from it.
    A typical little boy who hates to sit still and doesn't want to learn letters sounds to me like an ideal candidate for homeschooling. Having been a student teacher to a bunch of kids like that, I can say they are the ones that the school system tends to overlook or punish by trying to squeeze them into the mold of the academic world. A little research into various learning styles might help immensely!

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    1. Faith, this is SUCH a good point. My boys are allowed to be wiggly, which is really helpful for them. My daughter doesn't mind sitting still for school one bit, but the boys are able to move around while doing memory work, or answering questions. It helps with their behavior and their retention.

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    2. I'm having the same thoughts about my very wriggly preschool son. Yes, that part makes me nervous about home schooling with him, but I think it would give him an even harder time in a conventional classroom. I don't want him to learn to hate school and learning just because he's not yet able to sit still and listen as expected.

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    3. Kendra and sister Kara both went to neighborhood public schools. At that time our parish didn't have a CCD program so with the help of of our wonderful pastor I got to start one and it ran just the way I though it should. It was a big success in it's time. I do still have lots of faith in Catholic schools. I am wonderfully impressed with the moms in Kendra's home school group.

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  4. Amen! We do still need good kids and good families in our public, private and parochial schools. We need dedicated moms and dads on PTA's and kids with solid family life as examples in the classroom for all those families who can't or aren't drawn to homeschooling.

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  5. I have felt very guilty over the last year or so for not being able to stay home with my son, and then for sending him to school (for now, thanks to help from our Parish, we are able to send him to our Parish School and it is WONDERFUL). This is uplifting for me. Our circumstances wont allow it, but even if they could- maybe it wouldn't be right for us?
    Things are going so well with our Parish school and my son loves it. So, maybe I should stop torturing myself and be the light we are called to be.

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    1. Yes! If it's going well, then it's going well. Worrying won't change a hair on your head, right?

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    2. Seekingrenewablog, as a parish school business manager, the wife of our second grade teacher, and a mother of 5, one of whom I home school, give yourself grace. Catholic schools strive to provide an education to the whole child. First and most important, parents are the first and primary educators. Yes we have a set of given curriculum, but we also want to work with you. There are always countless ways to volunteer with your student. We have some parents that come in and just shadow their own children as their schedule permits. We like to think of our school as a large family, and with your child there he/she is an extension of the family. If your child is happy and enjoying school and you feel that he is getting a solid moral, spiritual education, and your happy too, then don't stress yourself out. You have middle & high school for that! J/k (kind of) Bless you!

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  6. Such a great day for me to read this! I put my oldest in kinder at our parish school this year & while she LOVED it at first, she is started to not love it. I am torn with if the excitement is wearing off or if it's not a good fit for her. She does well in the academic part, but she is not having the easiest time socially, which is breaking my heart. Really need to pray on it. Thanks for this Kendra!

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  7. The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist teach at our parish school. There are many many days in which I wonder (doubt) if I can actually do a better job than they can. I'm serious. Even on the good days. It's a matter of constant prayer and discussion for us.

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  8. What a wonderful post Kendra! I especially like that you point out that this could change from year to year. My mom always said that, and all my brothers and sisters and I had very different schooling. Things can change and every child is different! I love homeschooling, but it doesn't work for all families. This year my son is in a pre-K program at 5 years old only 2 half days a week. In my opinion that is more than enough 'structured schooling' for him! I do think we can be light in public/private schools, but you also have to be aware of where you are sending your children. Parish schools can be a wonderful option but some are not so good. Indoctrination is a really good movie for parents to watch about the public school system. If you are going to send your children that route, I think you should be informed.

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  9. I totally agree. I absolutely knew that this was the path for us, and whenever I just want to send them to school already! I know deep in me that it would be fear or laziness or frustration, and not God's plan. And my oldest is in kindergarten - it's going to be a long 15 years ;)

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  10. Kathryn Whitaker at Team Whitaker did a great series during Catholic Schools Week about why she loves Catholic school. Here's one of the posts: http://teamwhitaker.org/2014/01/catholic-schools-have-my-heart/ ...there are links to the others there as well. It made me really envious of her kids' school!

    I get the vocation thing. My oldest is enrolled in K right now, long story behind that. I see the other moms at school, their vocation is so clear to be a traditional schooling mom. They love the camaraderie, the volunteering, supporting the school spirit initiatives, the support the school provides whether it be instructional or spiritual, etc. Me - not so much.

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  11. "3-5 minutes on each thing"?! This makes me so much less intimidated!

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    1. Christine, I second the 3-5 minutes. I don't have nearly as much experience as Kendra does, but that has also been more than sufficient for my young ones :)

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  12. I've done and am doing both. I don't feel particularly called to homeschool, and I'm certainly not suited to it as I tend to be lazy and grumpy, but I think there are times when one must put the best interest of the child's soul ahead of whether one feels called or capable of homeschooling.

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  13. Awesome answer! I think sometimes situations also come up and make it so homeschooling is not possible, and its important for people to realize thats ok.
    EarlyLearningMom

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  14. Oh my gracious reading! I pushed and pulled with my oldest...tried this program and then that--at 3rd grade her reading exploded and she hasn't stopped. Second daughter, i tried a different program or two--BOOM! 3rd grade her reading exploded and that child reads like she breathes--all.the.time. Third child, tried yet another program...yep, 3rd grade. Thankfully it only took me three children to push, pull and prod. The rest, I work with them but don't worry about them and so far the other two; their reading took off in third grade...crazy!

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  15. I'm so glad you wrote this! I really do feel like we are called to homeschooling, but it has been tough this year with 5 young kids, one of them only 2 months old. I was worried that I wasn't doing enough for my 1st grader but I think I need to just chill and trust God's plan.

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  16. This post is such a breathe of fresh air. I've had many homeschool (and private school) moms (of all religions and stripes) say that it is the only choice. And it is not. We are all unique and God is the only one who truly knows our strengthens and limits. If we submit to His will He will help us shine wherever we go.

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  17. I just love your blog. Hope one day I can be as good a mom, organized, thoughtful, you name it, as you! I keep trying;)

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