Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our home school this year

I have mentioned a couple of times in the past month how enjoyable it is home schooling one child. I want you to know that I truly, truly am not trying to rub it in if you are struggling to home school several children at once, and I also want to say that truly it's not all roses every day. One is a lonely number, remember (I think I was in second or third grade when that song was popular and I remember our after-school babysitter playing it on the Hi-Fi-- boy am I old!), and for as fast as our day gets finished with one little student, there are many hours to fill when there is no one but mom around. Sometimes there is a friend (the family up the street home schools) but sometimes there is not.

But, all-in-all this is a good year so far. No one to bicker with, and mom's attention (mostly -- there is laundry and knitting) all to herself.

Of course, the curricula can make or break a year and this year I think we have a winner.

When I first began homeschooling nine years ago, I had an eighth grader in Catholic day school, and a fifth grader and first grader at home, as well as a teeny toddler girl. I never set out to home school, ever, but the Holy Spirit showed me the way and I followed (being a stubborn German woman I can tell you I rarely follow so that is one powerful Holy Spirit!). I started my first year, and many subsequent years, with Seton.

Seton was the education that I remembered from Catholic grade school before our Catholic grade schools lost so much of their Catholicity. It is Catholic, old-fashioned and very complete. For my boys, it was good. They did well. They were task-oriented for the most part (like their mama) and enjoyed workbooks. They liked to be able to see the task and know that it was doable. I know all boys are not like that, but mine were.

With the boys, we enrolled in Seton and, for the most part, used the lesson plans almost exactly as written. Because I had not set out to be a home schooler, I was, essentially, just doing institutional school at home. I know that many true-blue homeschoolers will tell you that's not the way it should be done, but I say horse poo. It should be done the way you want it to be done -- you are the teacher, principal and board of education (of course, with dad)! Maybe it can be better, but not if that's not who you are. I am not a creative-follow-the-whims-of-my-children homeschooler. I often wish I was, but that's not just me. I am giving them an education in the safety and security of our loving home, and I am giving them a Catholic education, which they would not get at any local Catholic school (that's a whole 'nother post for a whole 'nother day).

When Faith got to be in grade two, however, I realized that Seton did not work for her. She is extraordinarily creative, and while she didn't balk at workbooks, the Seton workbooks were not right for her. I looked around and when she started third grade, last year, I decided to use mostly Catholic Heritage Curricula. For the most part it was a perfect fit. MCP math was not a good match and we fiddled around with some other things, ending up with a mishmash year (third grade is not a good year to mishmash math, I'll tell you from experience). CHC reading was also not a perfect fit, but reading can be done with a library filled with books and that's just what we did. I had her retell stories and answer questions just to know she was comprehending. After doing that last year I firmly believe no formal reading curriculum is necessary. Just find good books and read. The CHC workbooks for spelling, English, handwriting, and science were perfect, as were the Faith and Life religion books (I can't say enough great things about those religion books and that's saying a lot because I love the old St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism books a whole lot), MCP Phonics, and the Map Skills books by Continental Press. The CHC lesson plans are great, but very flexible and I spread my wings more last year in terms of doing my own thing more than I ever did before. I did what I wanted to and it felt really good.

Because CHC worked so well for Faith last year, I decided to go back to their catalog to start planning for this year, and I will continue to tell you that tomorrow. Stay tuned...


  1. I have a prying question for you, if you don't mind. My mother is a Catholic elementary school principal and I know, should I choose to homeschool, she'd be able to help me out. My degree is in music therapy.
    Do you have an education related degree? If not, was that a concern when you started to homeschooling?
    I have certainly been mulling over the idea of homeschooling, I'm just not sure if I'd be up for the challenge.

  2. Kristina,
    I do not have a degree in education, I have a BA in journalism. It was not a concern at all when I started homeschooling. Because my children were in school prior to the time when we started, I saw what they learned (and didn't learn) and for one child in particular I was teaching him most of what he was learning after school hours -- he was not learning in school.

    It's just a guess, and your mom could tell you for certain, but I believe an education degree is going to teach child development, teaching philosophy, teaching methods, crowd control more so than academics, especially for elementary school. Obviously you would understand grade school math, language arts, etc. because you graduated from high school, college even. When people ask me how I teach my children without an education degree I say, "With Books! Teachers don't teach from memory!" Teachers use textbooks and teachers' manuals just like homeschoolers do.

    Because your mom is a principal will she be supportive if you decide to homeschool? Many teachers are very anti-homeschool, which I don't understand because it's not like everyone is going to pull their kids out of school and homeschool -- EVER!

  3. My mom is fine with the homeschooling idea. I'll chalk it up to yet another amazing thing about my mother. She is willing to buck the system if it is best for the child. Since 1968, she has been teaching in Catholic schools. Yet when it came time for me to go to school, despite the desire for me to attend our local parish school, she chose to send me to the public school because I had tested into their gifted program.
    She would be supportive with any choice as long as it is in the best interest of my son. Now I just have to convince my husband...
    Thank you for your words of confidence. They are very much appreciated.

  4. Awesome!! I LOVE CHC. I have yet to buy anything other than the "God's Love Story" book, which I LOVE. I'm slowly learning what my children need. Isaiah is more task oriented, which is why I've dug out the Math workbooks again. We have 2 K grade Horizon Math books and are still working on them even though he is techincally in 1st. I think I will stick w/ Horizon Math workbooks. They seem to cover everything. I agree with you on reading: BOOKS! And everything else I want to check out CHC..I just want to HOLD a book first before I buy it. So that is why I'm waiting..but keep writing about your favorite books of theirs and maybe I can add some to our collection. Isaiah is so bright and I think he really loves having a workbook - as long as it's not handwriting. ;)

  5. For our first year of homeschooling, we also chose CHC, and I have been most pleased with their spelling, English and handwriting books. I like the Faith and Life series, too, but I think religion could be a subject for which I group them together. Having three in my classroom (and three running around), I am realizing I need more things that I can do with all of them together. So even though I purchased all three levels of science, I decided to pick some science topics that are covered in all three (or at least two) books and teach them together ... But I haven't figured anything else out for religion or history ... Even though they are only a year apart in school, they are certainly at different levels and have different capabilities.

    Also, everyday I have wondered, "Am I doing this right?" Or "is this what it's supposed to be like?" We are very much still figuring things out. And I have to not be a perfectionist with this. I have to tell myself that everyday!

    I look forward to hearing about your plans tomorrow!

  6. After years with Kolbe, I started using CHC with the little ones and I am so glad that I found them! Our days are much less stressful and the kids are learning just as well.

  7. I just want to add a note to Kristina that she should not homeschool without her husband's support! There are so many really difficult days that his whole-hearted support is critical. After 17 years it's my husband that keeps me going and reminding me that we're still called to do this for our children.

  8. Kristina,
    That is great that your mom is supportive. Teachers often can't see beyond their teacher's creed to determine the best for the child. For some only school is best.

    My mom, though not in education, was not supportive of my decision to homeschool. She thought it would be too hard on me and she told me "I do not support this decision" which was very hurtful. The funny thing is now that homeschooling is more accepted she's all for it.

    I do agree that your husband should be behind you, but other than agreeing that homeschooling is best and being the only breadwinner in our family, my husband does not participate in the schooling, at all. His support is financial and listening to me complain!

  9. Elisa,
    I will let you know today why I like CHC's books.

    One year we tried Handwriting Without Tears and while it wasn't MY favorite, because they model a different style of handwriting -- different from what I learned and different from what both Seton and CHC teaches, Noah liked it. I think I remember that it's a more straight up and down style. I have a very traditional Catholic grade school style -- just like the sisters taught us -- and that is what I want for Faith. But Noah actually liked Handwriting without Tears. Let me see if I have Faith's old book anywhere. If I do, I'll send it to you.

    Last year CHC's was easy -- short lessons. This year it incorporates Latin, which I love, but Faith is not so hot on. She would like a secular program I think. But it's handwriting and I tell her to suck it up and do it! ;-)

  10. Sarah,
    I think you could definitely do religion together. I would just choose one of the books and copy the exercises for all three. If I remember correctly third grade might be tough for the younger children, so maybe pick the one in the middle.

    Also the history lesson in third grade could be taught to the younger children -- the country studies. I think they will grasp what they can. Faith enjoyed doing the Passport pages and I think the younger children could do that at their level. Fourth grade history is state studies and I think you could do the same with all three next year -- they will get what they can and there are a lot of resources for littles for state studies. I did a world geography one year with both boys (different grades) and it was easy to find everything I needed on the internet and create my own worksheets.

    I know that you are wondering if school feels right and that's normal. It's not school and it's not vacation -- it's awkward at first. It's hard for the kids to realize that you are not just mom anymore -- you are teacher, too. I think it's especially hard for those who have done school-school. You have a particularly difficult transition. Been there. It's more natural with Faith and I because she has never been to school -- has no expectations. Your girls will always remember school, but it will get easier.

    I'm going to email you this afternoon and I'll include my phone number if you have any time to chat!

  11. Jenny, You hit the nail on the head -- less stressful! Yeah!

  12. Thanks Sara -- you are such an old veteran! Um, a young veteran. How's that?

  13. Love this post, Barbara, and the comments!

    Dear Kristina,
    I wanted to homeschool our firstborn son years ago and my husband was very hesitant. His biggest concern was that he wanted his boy to "play football." There was a long history of star football players in their family...so it was important at the time to my husband. I prayed for his (husband's) heart to be open to homeschooling "one year at a time." We also realized our dear little boy at 5.5 years old had a number of years till he would play football. In the end...we homeschooled this particular child through 8th grade...he ended up playing the piano beautifully and hardly ever touched a football. HA! Prayers for you and your husband. :)


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!