Saturday, August 9, 2008

Guest Blogger: Rachel Watkins-mother of 11 talks about why to homeschool...

Rachel is a homeschooling mom of 11 great kids who writes for Catholic Exchange,Heart, Mind, and Strength, as well as others...she will be my guest blogger while I am out of town...sit back and enjoy her this week...feel free to leave comments and I will get them to her!!!

August is here and many parents, self-included, are beginning to think about the upcoming school year. If you are not yet, take a trip to a local big box store or turn on the television because the commercials are running and the shelves are full of pencils and paper.

While many parents have already made the decision, the tuition payment mailed and the school list downloaded, some parents are still deciding about where their little angel will go. Many parents are considering making that flight from the nest a quick hop to the kitchen table. Are you one of those parents? Are you thinking about homeschooling? If you are, you have many questions. Over the years, there has been a huge increase in the number of companies, programs and websites (including Catholic Exchange) there to help you out.

Our own decision to homeschool, now over 12 years ago, was made in the spur of the moment. We could no longer afford our local parochial school due to my husband’s recent job loss and our local public school was not even an option. What do we do? When approached by a local Catholic family about homeschooling our first thought was “Do Catholics do that?” When assured that they do, we did not hesitate to join in but did so more as lemmings than as thoughtful parents. We ran, as it were, into the ocean and it was only by God’s grace that we didn’t drown. We did not ask enough questions as we started and our first year was not as easy as it could have been. Our first student, our oldest daughter was spared any lasting damage due to the fact that we were only doing first grade. In an attempt to help prevent a false start to what will probably be the best adventure your family will ever have here is some basic information.

Who is doing it? Every religion, race and income level is homeschooling - the rich and famous, and low-income anonymous, from senators and movie stars to carpenters and car mechanics. Parents in every walk of life have decided that their children’s education is too important to hand off to anyone else.

Why would you want to? The pioneers in homeschooling may have felt that homeschooling as their only choice for their children. However, many parents deciding to homeschool today have made it their first choice; some with children still too young to even attend school. Moreover, parents who continue to homeschool child after child, year after year do so because they know it the best choice for their family.

Homeschooling gives a family freedom, flexibility and autonomy that no other education system can. Homeschooling parents and their children will talk about fine-tuning their programs to fit their unique family situation or individual child’s needs. A school board does not decide a homeschooling family’s calendar so the curriculum can vary from child to child, year to year. It is school in pajamas and field trips every week. It is involvement in local theater groups and reading every book out loud. It is the friendships that develop within the home and across the country. It is toddlers under foot and teenagers helping teach their younger sibling how to read. You can make daily Mass, First Fridays, enjoy prayer before school and during school. Discussions about God are not forbidden but encouraged and there is no concern about separation between church and state because there can be no dividing a family from its faith. Every homeschooling family will give you a unique reason why they homeschool but the common thread through each family is love for their child.

Deciding to homeschool your child is hard. While some families do, it from the start others may decide to later in, their child’s schooling because of bad experiences, difficult schooling situations or at the child’s request. More and more families decide to begin during the socially awkward middle school years or in high school when a good high school just is not available.

However, being a Catholic homeschooler is not as hard as it once was or is it seen as anything too odd. While parents, friend and neighbors might be surprised by your decision to do it, they will not say as many once did, “Is that legal?” If is announced today, while they might not fully support you, they have surely heard of it.

How do you even get started? Once the decision is made to do it, the work really begins. Every state has their own regulations. Contacting your local school board or the Home School Legal Defense Assoc. is the first step to get the information you need to get started. Once clear on the local requirements, you then get to decide on the very unique way your family will homeschool.

School at home can come from a box with detailed lesson plans, deadlines for work and consultants or advisors at the other end of a telephone line for assistance. Programs like this include Mother of Divine Grace, Seton Home School or Kolbe Academy. For other families school takes place in front of the computer with lessons sent for each child and work accomplished throughout the week or day and then sent back. On-line courses can come from Angelicum Academy or secular programs such as K12. There are the families who pick and choose from a variety of curriculum providers, too many to even list, to create their own packages while some just pick and choose from the local library. Then there are the families who do some of everything listed above depending on the child and their needs and skills.

There are as many ways to homeschool your Catholic family as there are Catholic families. Embracing your role as the primary and sole educator of your family allows you to choose what type of program fits your needs best. This is important to remember because you want to avoid anyone who would tell you what you must do in order to be a ‘good’ Catholic.

The decision on how to homeschool, within local requirements, remains up to you as parents. You will begin to read, investigate and talk to other homeschooler, your local librarians and God. Remembering to place Him first in your home school is vital to its success and survival.

Does it work? Absolutely! If your family is called to homeschool and you do it with conviction, planning and commitment, your children and family will thrive. Home schooled children are successful in their endeavors winning national competitions such as the National Scripps Spelling Bee and National Geographic Geography Bee. Homeschool students have won admission to such academic powerhouses as Yale and Harvard and spots at the Naval Academy and West Point. They are impressive on standardized tests and in essay contests across the nation. Even more impressive is that, more often than not, their homeschool experience has formed them into young adults who love the Church, learning and their families. They head out of the house for colleges, vocational schools or right into jobs with a formation that cannot be duplicated in any other setting. By God’s inspiration, most Catholic homeschool parents are as concerned about forming saints as much as they are in forming scholars.

If you are considering homeschooling your family, pray about how you envision your new roles as both parent and teachers. How you have seen your child succeed and what causes them frustration? What did you, yourself like about school? Don’t think about homeschooling them forever, just for this year. Creating small, reachable goals is necessary as is daily prayer and a good sense of humor. Investigate if there are other homeschoolers in your area and parish. A quick call to the rectory and visit to your local library will let you know. Finding some support, either locally or through the Internet will make a world of difference for the parents and the child.

Making the decision to homeschool is rarely easy but be assured that you are not the first family to do so and will surely not be the last. You may feel as if you don’t have a clue what you are doing but even veterans can feel the same way. We get comfort from remembering that if God has called us to homeschool, we can rely on His grace to do so. We stand strong in the knowledge that God always knows what He is doing, all the time, even when we don’t.


Anonymous said...

do you have any commentary about homeschooling children in preparation for standardized test like the sat or act, necessary for college admissions?

Rob said...

anonymous: It depends if they really need that for college kids took the local community college intro test(free) they also took sat classes with our high school tutor group, they could be found in any town or can also take a question a day on the sat website...they send one and the kids answer, it is corrected, or you can try again. We used sat books that come with a cd from borders. I think it is Kaplan...can't check...I'm at the beach!!!

momto5minnies said...

I admire those who can homeschool so many at one time. I wasn't exactly sure I felt "called" to homeschool 2 years ago when I first homeschooled 2 of my girls, but this year I feel that tug.

Great post!