So . . . it’s spring, and that means decision time for a lot of folks on how to school the kids next year. Of course, you can always change your mind. We did. Our oldest son went to our parish school for a couple of months, before we decided to give homeschooling a try. But even though no schooling decision is immutable, it is still a decision that needs to be made. In case you’re considering homeschooling, I thought I’d share a few mailbag questions on the blog this week, that I’ve received over the past couple of months. Perhaps they are questions you’ve had, too.
I want to first thank you for your blog. I love your wit and wisdom, and I always learn something new! Second, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask for your opinion about homeschooling. God has placed certain homeschooling mothers in my life for the last seven years, and I feel there has been a constant little tug on my heart to learn about homeschooling and be intrigued about what if I did this?
However, my two children in school (second grade and kindergarten) LOVE going to public school. We live in a small town of about 1,500 mostly Catholics, and my husband grew up here and went to this school. The roots are deep and meaningful. I don’t know what would happen if I pulled them out of school and starting homeschooling.
I am a teacher by trade but stopped teaching when we had our first child (we now have five children), so teaching is naturally a calling for me. During the summers and on days off from school, I use Seton and Mother of Divine Grace materials with them, and try to both public educate and dabble in home schooling.
I love my children and am happiest when all five are under one roof. When the older two go off to school, the three little ones and I feel a little void and can’t wait for 4:00 when they return. But then, it’s 4:00, and I get resentful that I haven’t been with them all day knowing what they are doing. Then the second-grader has homework, and I just want her to go play and be a kid. I think we could have all this work done by noon if she was homeschooled.
But, she would miss her friends. She is naturally more of a shy kid, and going to school has helped her come out of her shell. Yet, I see a little worldliness starting to happen with asking about name-brand labels and wondering if she is a “tomboy” or not. So, I am unsure of what to do.
My husband currently does not feel called to have our kids homeschooled, yet we are trying to stay on top of the Common Core standards and testing changes going on in Ohio. I have asked him to pray about it, and for us to pray together about what God wants us to do. We want our children to be the saints God has called them to be, and we don’t know if that is through public school or homeschool.
My husband and I are both naturally social and like to be involved, so maybe we are called to be that family trying to be a light in the public realm. I know it can happen. We are blessed to have other good, strong Catholic families around here, and we have also started up a Little Flowers and Blue Knights Catholic program here. Maybe we are meant to be in the public system, yet I think about how nice it would be to choose the curriculum and be with my kids all day. Any suggestions for us? I am sorry this message is so long, and I do appreciate your thoughts and prayers!
Well, my answer would be completely different if your husband was on board (on indifferent), but . . . homeschooling is wonderful and challenging and I really think both parents have to be convinced that it’s the right thing to do. I NEED my husband’s support on days when I’m having discipline issues, or if we had field trips during the week and have some schoolwork to catch up on during the weekend. I need him on board when I have to vent a bit because it was a rough day. If your husband is really convinced that traditional school is a better fit for your family, I think all those really regular moments could end up a source of struggle in your marriage.
And I’m not going to be too much help because I TOTALLY agree with all the conflicting things you wrote here. Yes, the Catholic school system needs good Catholics in it. Yes, they need motivated, devout parents who can make a difference in the lives of those around them.
But, also . . . yes, when my oldest son was in kindergarten at our parish school the younger kids and I really missed him. I missed having him be a part of the regular rhythm of our day, and being able to interact with his siblings all day long. He really liked going to school, but I was seeing some changes in him that I didn’t love, and the schedule of getting him to and from school was really difficult for me to manage. I am NOT a crier, at all, but I sat there and cried at the lunch table when we brought him home in November to give homeschooling a go. It was just so nice to have all my kids there at lunchtime. I really do prefer to have all my kids with me during the day. And he adjusted to homeschooling pretty easily.
If you’re interested in pursuing the idea of homeschooling, I’d, first and foremost, pray about it. That’s always better than nagging for convincing husbands of anything, in my opinion. One well-timed novena will make all the difference, if God is truly pulling you towards homeschooling. The other thing is to hang out as a family with homeschooling families. Let your husband meet them and interact with their kids. A BIG hang up for me before we started was the stereotype of “weird homeschool kids.” But then we got to know homeschooling families, and guess what, there are some really cool homeschoolers. There also totally ARE weird homeschool kids, but there are weird kids everywhere, because there are weird parents everywhere. And I even found out that once I got to know the weird ones, I liked them too. There are all kinds of homeschoolers because there are all kinds of people.
In my experience, the older kids in homeschooling families are the best advocates there are for the institution. Most of them we know can chat with adults, can keep toddlers happy, can change diapers, can help with dishes, and just generally be very impressive to fathers.
If you do get the opportunity to give homeschooling a try, I wouldn’t worry too much about your kids being able to make friends. Different communities are going to have different homeschooling resources, of course, my my kids have plenty of friends and opportunities for socializing. My kids do sports, and clubs, and scouts, and Little Flowers, and I host weekly science classes at our home. Plus we have a weekly homeschool parkday where the kids get to see their friends and I get to see mine. It’s lovely.
But again, please don’t think homeschooling is the only option for good Catholic families. It isn’t. And there are good and bad parts about all types of schooling. For as long as your kids are in a traditional school, try to celebrate its benefits. You get one on one time with your little kids, you can take them to kids’ museums and the zoo. I can’t do that with my little kids. You can have the house to yourself during naptime. I stay up until the wee hours of the morning, to find some uninterrupted time to answer mailbag questions! :0)
I love homeschooling, and I do believe it’s what we are called to do, but nothing this side of Heaven is perfect, and kids can flourish in a wide variety of environments.
Some related reading . . .
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.
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.
p.s. I’m also at Blessed is She today typing deep thoughts about what it is we’re laboring for . . .
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.”
In my home, in my relationships, I have a tendency to do stuff for people, rather than to do stuff with people. I’ll happily spend time cooking meals for them, or baking elaborate cakes for them, or rearranging closets for them, or creating organizational systems for them. Acts of love and of service, and those are good things. Clearly hot dinners and accessible closets are good things in themselves as well.
But the problem is when I stop there. . . .