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.