Monday, April 27, 2015

Homeschooling is a Scary Proposition

It's the last installment of homeschool week on the blog. For earlier posts see here and here and here.

Today we'll be looking at some obstacles to homeschooling, and how to overcome them, if you feel like homeschooling is something you'd like to try.

The question:


Hi Kendra!

I've been following your blog for a little over a year now and I really love it!  I so admire your awesome family life and your self-confidence.

I am hoping that you can give me some advice with a problem I've been wrestling with for a while now.  Homeschooling has been on my mind and the posts you've written about it already have helped me immensely.  I really have no problem with the public school system, but I really love the idea behind homeschooling that life centers around home and the family.  I have 3 kids:  Claire (3), who would be starting JK in September and twin boys, Simon and Thomas (1).  I know I can do it (though I'm also realistically prepared for hard days and challenges!), my husband supports me (God bless him) and I am blessed to already know several good homeschooling families that live nearby.  There are two problems that are still stopping me from taking the plunge: 

First, I know that I will have some pretty opinionated and loud nay-sayers, not the least of which is my mother.  I wish I could say that even if she disagreed, she would support me and trust in my decision making, discernment process, but she's already kind of made it clear that she won't.  In fact, I truly fear the constant guilt-mongering will last forever.  We happen to be close, so I am always seeking her approval... but I know there won't be many days where I probably WON'T hear about how I'm ruining my children and making them miserable by keeping them home.  Sigh.  I am very non-confrontational, so this is difficult for me.  Any advice in this area would be so appreciated!!  Did you meet much resistance?  How did you/do you deal with it?

Second, I am wondering how to start with my daughter, who is currently SO excited to go to "real school" that she wakes up every morning asking if it's fall yet.  I think that this causes me more doubt than anything else because I don't want to devastate her.  She is very social and active and loves to be out and about.  I feel that homeschooling would be really good for the whole family (especially if we have more kids because, I share your policy that you should never wake a sleeping baby EVER and that would be difficult on a school's schedule...).  I am not  "afraid" of my kids but I don't want to crush her either.  Any helpful tips on what to do?  I feel like when she's this young, it may be easy enough to just not mention school at all and keep going on our merry way, but she will keep asking and I want to mean what I say!

Thank you so much for all of your inspiring words on the blog... Oh, and your Day in the Life post was by far my favorite one last year!  In fact, I think it may have been the catalyst in my homeschooling endeavors!  It helped to have a real look at what life looks like homeschooling in a big family!
God Bless,

Michelle Sachs

 

 

The answer:


Hey Michelle,

I think what you're asking about here are really common concerns of ALL new homeschoolers.
Homeschooling, despite what it might seem like in the Catholic blogosphere, is still relatively rare and pretty counter-cultural. I think it's quite normal for even very supportive extended family to be taken aback by the idea that a family wouldn't be sending their kids to regular school. Because that's just what people DO with their kids, they send them to school.

I think the best approach with skeptical family members is to just try to let things play out a bit, and let them see that it's working for your family. I'd highlight the fact that this isn't a forever decision. This is something you feel that God has put on your heart to try, so you're going to homeschool for this year. And next year you'll decide again.

Having a supportive husband and a homeschooling community and confidence in your own ability to handle it is are the three most important pieces to the homeschooling puzzle. While also having a supportive extended family is ideal, I don't think it's nearly as important as husband and community and confidence.

Something else to consider . . . I don't personally do ANY sit down preschool homeschool with my kids. And even in kindergarten, I keep sit down instruction time pretty minimal. When I only had one in school, we did a very consistent 45 minutes or so, two to three days per week. Now that I have so many other grades to attend to, my current kindergartener gets less direct instruction time than that. But I have found that for my kids, early school concepts have come more quickly and easily if they're not started too early, and daily interactions, unstructured play time, and family outings are a more valuable use of time for my kids younger than six or seven.

I have had a couple who really were ready to begin learning to read before kindergarten and one in particular who has a deep and abiding love for workbooks, and for those kids, I did do some sit down schoolwork, just because they really loved it. But for the rest of my kids, who were happy just playing, I let them focus on that.

Also, sending your kids to preschool outside the home does NOT mean you can't be homeschoolers. My three oldest attended and loved a non-academic two day per week preschool. If the dropping off and picking up wasn't so disruptive to our homeschool day, my younger kids would be going there, too. If you have a good option for a fun preschool, and you think your daughter would enjoy it, you might want to consider it, even if you plan to homeschool.

The easiest way to smooth the transition from traditional preschool to homeschool kindergarten or first grade, I think, is to spend time around your homeschooling family friends. That way your daughter knows that there are different ways to go to school, and homeschooling is one of them. Then, whenever the subject of school comes up, you can just remind your daughter that, after preschool is done, we'll be doing school at home, like the insert-name-here family does.

It comes down to a family culture issue, really. Different families are different, and do things different ways. If my son had said, "But my friend Aidan is going to such and such a school. I want to go there, too." I would have told him, "Different families do school different ways. That school is what's going to work for Aidan's family next year. But the Tierney family is going to homeschool. That's what's going to be the best for us."

Then, for both your mom AND your daughter, you can really highlight the benefits of homeschooling. You'll have more flexibility to be able to go to the beach or a museum, or on a hike or a bike ride, or a vacation. Your daughter will be able to be home with her siblings and be a part of the rhythm of your family's day, not someone who leaves in the morning and comes home in the late afternoon. She'll be available for outings with her grandmother. You'll be able to spend time more specifically than they are able to do in a classroom. You can blow through easy subjects, and take your time on more difficult ones. You can include things that are especially of interest to her like gardening, or cooking, or art, or science, or music, that they just don't have the time or resources for in a classroom setting.

In my personal experience, there is NO SHORTAGE of opportunities for socialization in the homeschooling world. My kids participate in a wide variety of activities. They all play on multiple sports teams at our local park. The boys do Boy Scouts, and the girls do Little Flowers. We have weekly parkdays and monthly field trips with our Catholic homeschool group. I host a bi-monthly science class in our home, where a scientist comes in and teaches our group, which includes us, plus a few other families from our homeschool group. My boys are altar servers and my older daughter helps out on the doughnut committee at our church. We are quite involved, and my kids have really close friends.

And the best thing about it is that their close friends share our family values. I can't guarantee that you'll find the same among all Catholic homeschooling families, of course, or that you wouldn't find the same thing in a Catholic school (hopefully you would), but we have been just incredibly blessed in the companionship of our homeschool group friends. There have been disagreements over the years, of course, but very few. And not one time in the eight years I've been homeschooling have my kids come to me sad because another child has teased them about their physical appearance, or our family rules, or our faith. It has never happened. I do have one child who has more trouble than the others in getting along in a group setting, and who has sometimes gotten a hard time from the group of kids, but it's always had to do with my child's behaviors and actions, and never with physical appearance . . . which I think is a very important difference.

You still have lots of time to reflect and resolve and figure things out. But if homeschooling is what's right for your family, as it has been for mine, I think you'll find that it just ends up manageable. The couple of months my son attended our parish school, it never felt quite right, everything was off kilter. As soon as I brought him home to try homeschooling, things fell into place. That's not to say it isn't hard, of course, any type of schooling is going to have its challenges. But if you are meant to be homeschooling at that time, you will find you have the grace to do it, and to handle all the direct and indirect challenges that come along with it.

Good luck!

Please let me know if this answered your question, and if there's anything else I can do to help.

Cheers,
Kendra

p.s. here are some posts that might be of interest . . .

Creating a Family Culture

Quit Worrying About Preschool. Seriously, Stop It.

How to Start a Little Flowers Girls' Club

 

Mailbag 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 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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13 comments:

  1. I've said it before, but you have an amazing knack of posting on what I worry about as soon as I start worrying about it!
    My friend and I are thinking of setting up a Catholic homeschooling group (if you find such a thing to be rare in America, you should see Britain!), and whilst her family are mostly in favour/ have homeschooled their own children, my family is very anti, and it is scary. So thank you.
    Ignore me if I am being too nosey, but did you yourself encounter much opposition when you announced your decision?

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    1. Hi Isabelle - let me check in as the then-opposition. I am Kendra's dad. Her mom and I had serious reservations about Jim and Kendra's plan to homeschool their kids. We had sent Kendra and her younger sister to public school, and that had worked well for education, friends and sports. But we listened to what Kendra had to say, and internet research showed many positives. So after expressing our opinions, we watched to see how it would work for them. It worked great. Kendra had amazing support materials, and was an excellent teacher. The kids recited long poems, and put on full stage plays with other homeschoolers during Friday park days. My wife and I are now convinced this is best for at least elementary school. Kendra and Jim are formulating plans for what will be best for each child in high school. We will watch with great interest, and admire the results. Grandad Curt

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    2. Thanks Curt! I hope I can convince my side as thoroughly!

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    3. Aww, thanks Dad!

      On the other side of the family, Jim's mom has been a Catholic school teacher for forty years, so I know it must have been a challenge to accept that I, without any vocational training, was just going to up and do her job. She's always been very kind about it, but I think she has eventually also come to see that homeschooling has been a good fit for our family. And that my kids haven't suffered academically, socially, or disciplinarily.

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  2. This is great. My extended family is generally supportive, but I do believe some people are taking a "wait and see" approach. Like they are willing to give me a few years before they decide how they feel about it. I'll take that over outright criticism any day.

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  3. Yes! Great response, Kendra. You are right that a supportive husband, community, and confidence are three most important things.
    Hi Michelle, I am sorry that your mom is not supportive. I had people who were against our decision to homeschool. One way that I helped them to feel better about our decision was to invite them to hang out with different homeschooling families and at homeschool group activities. Once they saw healthy, happy, articulate children and average looking parents (as opposed to dirty, small, halflings that only grunt) they became more comfortable and eventually more supportive.
    But some were not won over until my oldest son graduated from my homeschool and started college. Then they praised me for doing "such a good job."
    Continue to pray for your mom's support, but also pray that you become comfortable and confident without it. :)

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  4. A factor to also consider for homeschooling opponents is the Common Core State Standards (CC).

    Do your research on how these standards were made, how states that have adopted Common Core are now sinking in national tests (Massachusettes used to be a top state under their own standards, which were far more rigorous than CC, but every year under CC they sink further and further), and how the standardized tests for CC (SBACC and PARC) are designed to suck hours and hours out of your child's school year (take it from me, I'm living it right now as a public school teacher)--just do the research on what public schools have been forced to eat under the guise of CC, and your mother will run in horror from your local public school. It wasn't what it was when she was a girl, or when you were a child. Common Core is an unmitigated disaster. You do not want your child in a public school with CC.

    Please, for the love of God, if you are able to homeschool, save your child and be bold: go with what God has put on your heart, and homeschool!

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  5. For those of you that like the idea of homeschooling but don't have the ability to execute it for any reason, I recommend checking out a NAPCIS school: <a href="http://napcis.org/>napcis.org</a>. They don't have them everywhere, but they provide an alternative to the traditional parish school.

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  6. Would you ever consider doing a home tour? I have been homeschooling 5 years now ( 6 kids- oldest is 10 youngest is in the womb) and seem to change how I set up my "classroom constantly. We will be moving soon and this home will have no place to have a dedicated classroom. I will have to be creative with setting up where we school as well as storing materials in different areas of the house. I always love to see how other moms organize their materials and see where they teach and where their kids play while another child is getting one-on- one instruction.

    Thanks,
    Angela

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  7. When do you start All About Spelling? My oldest is going into 1st.

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    Replies
    1. I have even my kindergartener sit in, to start memorizing the phonograms and spelling rules. But that's only because we're already doing it. I think when they've finished 100 Easy Lessons and some easy readers, they're probably ready to start, so usually for us that's 2nd grade.

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  8. Michelle, I'm always amazed at Kendra's wisdom. I just wanted to add a couple of ideas for you. My mother is also very anti-homeschooling (although we don't live close, so it hasn't been much of an issue) and I was struck by Alice Gunther's book A Haystack Full of Needles. She has lots of great ideas for "socialization" possibilities, but she won over her mother through trips to the adoration chapel. Making a concerted effort to pray for more unity between your mom and you can make the difference. I'd choose a favorite saint and entrust it to him/her, saying a special prayer for that intention every day.

    As for your daughter, I can relate there too. We sent both our oldest daughters to the local Catholic school for one year and they loved it, and missed it, although, despite its many beauties it confirmed my husband and me in our decision to homeschool. But now I satisfy my kids' school craving with other things. Kendra mentioned Little Flowers and preschool. Some parishes have a Mothers Day Out for small kids. Even better is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd--this is a Montessori-based religious education for very small children (ages 3-5) which will blow your mind. When you see 20 3-year-olds (whom you know to be incapable of sitting still or being quiet) work quietly and independently for a full-hour, you will feel, as I do, that you've just witnessed a miracle! And the whole catechesis is aimed toward enabling small children to explore their own relationship with Jesus, which blows my mind even more.
    We've also joined Classical Conversations this year. This is a Protestant classical homeschooling help. For preschool to grade 6, it means meeting one morning a week for the kids to work on memory work in 6 subjects, do an art project, a science project, and give an oral presentation. Although it is a Protestant program, where I live the community has been wonderfully warm and welcoming to Catholics. It's all the best of homeschooling (parents are the teachers of their own kids; none of the cliques that school seems to engender, etc.) and the best of school (kids have to learn to sit in seats and not talk over other people, and they get to play with other homeschooling families). I've also been thrilled with all the stuff my kids have learned, and the fact that they finally get to do art projects and science experiments. We call our community day, "school".
    Lots of homeschooling communities have a day at the park, as Kendra mentioned, or at a gym or church, but it's harder to call that "school", although your daughter may not miss school if she has a fun day once a week to look forward to. In our town the Catholic homeschoolers get together for Mass on First Fridays, and then we have muffins and the kids get to recite their poems/memory work and play with each other. It's a huge high point to our month. Good luck!

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  9. Kendra, I apologize if this has gone through twice. Thank you for your blog, which is such a blessing!

    Michelle, do you happen to have a Regina Caeli Academy near you? They use Mother of Divine Grace, and the children are educated together two days out of the week. http://www.rcahybrid.org/

    ReplyDelete

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