by Becki Agar
Well, we did it! After 12 years of homeschooling, we reached our goal—the golden ticket if you will. Our son and daughter graduated from Seton Home Study School this past May. If you would have asked me several years ago if this achievement were possible, I would have stared at you in disbelief.
Introduced to Seton
I was not a teacher, but I was a mom who wanted what was best for my kids. Our son, Johnny, has cerebral palsy. When he was seven years old and in the first grade, he asked me if he could play the piano. My husband and I looked at each other and thought, “When does he have time to play the piano?” Between occupational therapy, physical therapy and school, there was just enough time in the day. He was already falling asleep at the dinner table as it was!
Then a dear friend of mine introduced me to Seton. As a timid homeschooling Mom, I felt comfort in the fact that there was a whole curriculum for us to follow which was accredited. I loved the fact that I knew what to do on each day of our school year.
All I had to do was open up the syllabus and there it was, spelled out for me. It also comforted me to know that there were Seton staff members ready to help me on the other end of the phone line if, or whenever, I needed it.
Most importantly, we loved the fact that the curriculum was Catholic. Our faith is a very important part of our lives and it made sense to us that our children’s school should help to form their Catholic faith. We were sold!
My husband, Jeff, and I decided to homeschool our two children: Johnny and his two-year younger sister, Annie. When that first, brown, square box full of the kids’ books was delivered at our doorstep, they ripped it open with excitement. Meanwhile, I was in the background with my heart racing, probably more with nerves than anything.
Homeschooling is a big step for a family, and I was nervous. All sorts of questions went racing through my head. What if I did not know the material to teach them? What if they hated it and in turn hated me? What if they missed their friends from school? However, having a son with cerebral palsy had taught us a valuable lesson: anything worth having required some risks.
Keeping the Baton
It is a risk that a family takes when they decide to homeschool their children. It is so much easier to pass that baton off to someone else. When we were trying to decide on taking that big step toward homeschooling, a friend of mine had just begun to homeschool her children. I saw a wonderful transformation in their family dynamics and had that in the back of my mind as she talked to me about their experience.
Then she said something I will never forget, something that eased all of my insecurities and doubts about homeschooling. She said, “You will never regret spending more time with your children.”
She knew me. She knew that I was scared to venture out into the unknown. She also knew I might regret never giving homeschooling a chance. She was spot on. All of those questions and doubts that had been racing through my mind were put to ease at that moment. The benefit of more time with my kids far outweighed the insecurities I was dealing with. After all, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.
All of those questions I had lingering would be dealt with as they came. It was a risk, yes, but anything worth having involves risk. The Seton counselors made the signing up process so easy and reassured me that we were doing the right thing. Their caring attitude on the phone was a God-send.
Because our son and daughter were just two years apart, and because Annie loved doing things with her brother, we decided to combine a lot of the subjects from the start. Although we did not know it at the time, this was one of the best decisions we made for many different reasons, the first being that it was much easier on me to teach one subject to two students. It also freed up our time in the day. Combining subjects allowed us to enjoy more field trips and leisure time. The kids loved it because they could “compete” (Did I mention we are a competitive family?!) against each other as they learned. Spelling is a lot more fun when you can recreate the Scripps Spelling Bee in your living room practicing the same words!
Scheduling It In
Early in our homeschooling venture, it became clear that one of the biggest challenges had to do with me. I became stressed because the house started “crumbling” before my eyes. The laundry stockpiled, the dishes got stacked, and, let’s just say the house was not the cleanest it had ever been! Then it occurred to me that I needed to schedule time in our homeschooling day to get those things done—a simple idea that worked like a charm for us. When preparing our daily schedule, we would reserve a time for me to have a half an hour here or there to get the laundry done, for example. The kids liked that idea and so in our day we blocked off their free time as well. I cannot tell you what a lifesaver this was for us.
Spending forty minutes in math was less daunting for all of us when we knew there was a scheduled break for free time. I was less stressed because I knew that I had time to get done those things that were falling by the wayside, and the kids were happier because there was a light at the end of their tunnel for a play break. Later, as they became older, chores such as the laundry and preparing dinner became their chores as well.
Seton Home Study School not only helped our children with their ABC’s and their multiplication tables, it guided them in their journey toward living a more God-centered life. Yes, they had a religion class with pages steeped in beautiful artwork depicting the life of Christ, but every subject they learned through Seton centered on their Catholic faith. Their vocabulary and spelling words were rich in Catholic teaching. Every book they had reminded them to pray to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for guidance with the familiar J.M.J on the top of the pages. In the syllabus, I was reminded that Jesus was walking this homeschooling path with me and that I was never alone in the process.
As Johnny and Annie became older, they learned so much about their Catholic faith. Seton’s rich Catholic teachings not only helped them to live a Christian life, but it “armed” them with the knowledge they needed to better understand their Catholicism and go out into the world as part of Christ’s army. Because of Seton, they understood the “why’s” and “how’s,” which strengthened their commitment to their faith. Seton’s teachings through the study of the Bible and through the lives of the saints helped them to appreciate all the more the gift of their Catholic faith.
12 Years in a Flash
It seems like just yesterday that we were facing all the questions and uncertainties of being new members of the Seton Homeschooling family. It is hard to believe that it was twelve years ago! They say time flies when you’re having fun. And I can honestly say that it did. Here we sit proudly now with two graduates of the Seton Home Study School (graduating with honors, I might add). One will be heading off to Aquinas College in the fall and one will be going to Grand Valley State University; both will be studying Sports Management.
Were there frustrations along the way? You bet!
Were there times when I wanted to slam the books closed and send them off to our local school? Absolutely!
Would I do it all over again? I wouldn’t hesitate.
Homeschooling Johnny and Annie through Seton was one of the best decisions of our life. They are ready to meet the challenges that college will bring them. They are armed with the intellectual knowledge that Seton provided to them in their syllabus every year, but more importantly, they are armed with the spiritual fortitude Seton gave them. They are ready to venture off into their life with the knowledge that God is with them every step of the way.
Thank you, Seton.