Thursday, March 27, 2014

homeschooling: 7 things I've learned lately

1. Last Saturday, my Catholic homeschool email list/park day organized a homeschool support day. It really was a full-blown conference. There were 4 speakers and 40 parents. This was the first year we did this. I volunteered my big girls to babysit for the day because only babes in arms could attend. They babysat 7 extra children. The topics of the talks were: Why & How to start and stay homeschooling, Daily Schedule & Organization, Homeschooling the Sensitive/Difficult Child, More on Methods, How to Have Fun, and The Classical Homeschooler....& Did I mention that the keynote speaker was Laura Berquist? I was inspired and learned/remembered...
2. I have got to start the day strong. I think this is hard for a lot of homeschooling parents. We don't want to stifle joy and creativity. How can you tell your lovely children to stop playing nicely together and hit the books? The big girls have no problem getting down to business, so it really is the barely 7 year old 1st grade boy that can be a challenge. I've been writing some sentences (the night before) on the whiteboard. He copies these sentences and draws a picture during breakfast, so he is starting his school day at about 7:30. This has worked well; I use high-interest words that emphasize the past days' work. It might seem silly- or tiring- to start schoolwork at 7:30, but dad gets to see Boy's work before he leaves for the day.

3. We have got to start the day with formal prayer, preferably before dad goes to work. We pray a short morning prayer and light some candles. We are praying for specific person every day in addition to our typical intentions. I want to start singing a hymn every morning, teaching the children a new one every week. 

4.I have got to simplify. These are our out-of-the-house activities right now (it isn't always this bad, but it is always pretty bad) (not including dad's extras after work at the hospital): 
Monday- college ballet & choir, high school school meeting & testing (girl 14) tae kwan do (boy) teach college class (me) 
Tuesday- guitar (girl 13) Merry Wives of Windsor musical (girl 14, girl 13, boy with me as class parent) teach college class (me)
Wednesdaycollege ballet & choir, high school testing (girl 14) Lego engineering (boy) Presanctified Liturgy (all)  teach college class (me)  
ThursdayLego engineering (boy) Guitar (girl 13) College speech class (girl 14) teach college class (me) 
Friday- tap class (girl 4 and boy) Tae kwan do (boy) Shakespeare combat (boy) high school testing if needed (girl 14) 3 hour ballet/jazz (girl 14, girl 13)
Saturday- tae kwan do (boy), church Sunday- church  
I think that is everything...
5. You really never know what is going on with someone unless they are open about it. In the past two weeks, I've learned that two friendly acquaintances have been suffering from depression. I have known them for years, but I guess I really didn't know them. One friend confessed her depression on her new depression/crafting blog. She has been really open about it, inviting real life friends to read her writing. The other woman with depression talked about her struggles at the end of the homeschooling support day that my group had. She just started to talk about it. She said that her depression would manifest itself as anger, but her husband didn't take her depression seriously. She went to confession to an Opus Dei priest, and he asked her if she had ever used medication. She said, "no, my husband doesn't believe in it." So, the priest compassionately told her to tell her husband that he said she should see a doctor. The husband relented from his stubbornness, she is on medication and doing well. It was a great thing that she did, being open about her problems. I suspect that some other moms will have the courage to get information on depression because of her talk.

6. Listening to these 2 moms, I was praising God that I don't have depression. I have other struggles, and right now, we are dealing with some very depressing stuff going on, but I am able to get out of bed, do my work and then smile at the end of the day. 

7.  During the conference, it was clear: we all love our children, feel called to be active in all aspects of their lives, and see the value in using alternative educational methods for our children. I might wonder if I should try a more classical approach with my children...but how can I bypass Romanian and Spanish for Latin and Greek? We are all making different daily choices with how to educate our children. Personally, I am grateful for the support of the homeschool charter school we use, but many people do not want to give up their freedom. And yes, if my children are mandated to take standardized tests, we are losing freedom even if I chose the curriculum and method and delivery system. We are a small minority even if it seems like all Catholics are homeschooling (nope- we are in the minority) and we are loud and proud, so it is wonderful to have this group of committed home educators.


  1. You conference sounds amazing. I love the quote. So good to remember.

    1. it was such a blessing- one of the moms just opened her house to us (the support day was in the works for months, though)

  2. I love # 2 and # 3 - actually all of it, but those two really struck me. My children woke up an hour before me one day this week and it totally derailed the homeschooling day. It reminds me of why the Proverbs 31 woman rises before dawn! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It is hard to wake up before we 'need' to- but kids cling quickly to new, simple habits. The other day I hadn't written on the white board yet and Boy asked me- where are my sentences??? he likes having something accomplished for dad to see before he leaves. I think this will be a very good habit- being comfortable with dad seeing his school work (my girls have some anxiety with that- especially when it comes to math)

  3. I need to get better at getting the day started earlier. Right now the kids are waiting for breakfast to be finished, the dishes done and the table cleared. And sometimes with the baby interrupting and all we aren't getting started until ten. And on days when we go to the store, I don't generally get any schooling done at all. I like the sentences on the whiteboard idea. I'm already using our whiteboard for Bella's reading lesson, writing sentences from the book, but she wouldn't at all be interested in copying those. So I've got to think about how I can make something like that work for us. Right now both of my school-age kids are not yet fluent in reading and so all school work is me-dependent. And with a baby keeping me up half the night, right now I'm getting up later than all the other kids. My husband gets them breakfast but I think adding supervising school to that would be more than he could deal with.

    I think your conference sounds delightful too. Sadly, in our area the organized homeschoolers are on the other side of the city, which means they might as well be on the other side of the planet as far as I'm concerned. There are some homeschoolers closer to me, but they are not organized at all and don't seem at all interested in getting organized. And organizing people is just simply not something I'm good at. Not at all. So I'm praying God sends us someone with that gift.

    This Lent for the first time we've been starting with formal prayer and that has been truly wonderful. I'm resolving to keep up the habit through the Easter season and beyond. It does make such a difference.

    Your out of the house schedule absolutely exhausts and baffles me. I can't imagine trying to do even a quarter of that. How on earth do you manage to get anything done at all?

    Anyway, thank you for this post. So many things to ponder and pray about as I try to imagine where we'll go from here.

    1. Melanie- our out of the house schedule is insane...Hit me over the head with a frying pan if we do more than 1 Shakespeare play next year...the program is usually from October to March- one play- one class a week- very do-able. But I had extra $ from the charter school and they are doing a musical Merry Wives, so all 3 kids are doing that- problem is....for my oldest to be free, I have to be the class parent - stay in the 2 5 hour class and supervise and stuff and wrangle the 4 year old (basically INFP torture....)

      It really does help to start at breakfast- I use a lined (with the dotted guidelines in the middle of lines to help a new writer- does that make sense?) journal with space for picture above the writing- the 4 year old has a color book so she can work, too. Start very very easy- "God is love" "I like cats" "Dad plays with me"- I like using a journal because he can see his improvement and there is less clutter!

  4. Our schedule: Monday: girl #1 softball practice or game, girl #2 modern dance, me teach little guy from church who is homebound with cancer
    Tuesday: girl #1 softall, girl #2 ballet, me teach
    Wednesday: girl #1 softball, twirling; girl #2 ballet, me teach
    Thursday: girl #1 softball, me teach
    Fridauy: girl #1 softball, twirling if there is a competition on Saturday; me teach, girl #2 just performed spring ballet so Friday ballet practice is OVER
    Saturday: girl #1 twirling competition once a month
    Sunday: church, twirling
    Not as bad as yours but I feel your pain!! What are we thinking?, or: the things we do for our daughters!

  5. Even though I don't homeschool, I can definitely relate to a lot of what you are saying. Thank you for the suggestions!


thanks for commenting! (comments on old posts are moderated)