During the warm weather months, while everyone else is on vacation, I am at airports and hotels traveling to Catholic homeschooling conferences.
You won’t hear me complain though, because I get so many opportunities to meet homeschooling parents, learn from them, and listen to their concerns.
Here are the top five questions I heard this past year, along with, what I hope, are some helpful answers.
1. My toddler is driving me nuts! How can I homeschool my older kids while the three-year-old demands constant attention and I’ve got a nursing newborn. Help!
This will be an ongoing problem because, as soon as you settle this toddler into a routine, the baby will be running around the house. In big Catholic families, it never ends! Here are a few ideas.
First, in warm weather months, try to do school on a picnic table in the backyard.
This allows the “littles” to run free while you work. For days when you cannot be outside, have lots of toys that can be played in place, like blocks, soldier or cowboy “guys”, dolls, or a kitchen set. This might buy you an hour or so of peace.
When toys no longer do the trick, play “revolving siblings” with your school age kids. Tell your 3rd grader, “You take brother into the playroom and amuse him while I work with sister.” Hopefully, that gives you a few minutes to work with your first grader. Then you tell her, “It’s your turn to play with brother. Send your older brother in to do schoolwork.”
Maintaining a resolute nap schedule will certainly help. Anyone younger than school age must have either a nap or a solid hour of “quiet time” when he or she must remain in one spot and not talk to anyone, and certainly not bother Mom.
Finally, during these challenging years, never forget that one of the biggest bonuses of homeschooling is our ability to work on our own schedule. If the kids are simply impossible to control during the day, catch up at night or on weekends when Dad is home.
2. Lots of my friends are designing their own curriculum or even “unschooling.” I am tempted to take some pressure off myself. Is this a good idea?
Each family must make its own decision based on many factors. The most important goal of Catholic homeschooling is to form our children in the Catholic Faith. On your own, can you locate materials that will help you in this important task?
Do you know the Faith well enough yourself to be able to pass it on? Can you provide robust Faith formation without support? These are important questions that cannot be ignored.
A second essential aim of home education is to strengthen the family. Homeschooling leads to closer family life no matter what curriculum you use provided that none of your materials contain anti-family messages. This is actually a serious problem today.
TV shows, the Internet, secular textbooks, and contemporary children’s literature are rife with subtle, and some not so subtle, anti-family messages. You will need to be on your guard.
Finally, a third and no less crucial purpose of Catholic home education is to prepare well-formed leaders of impeccable character for the 21st century. (My new book, on this very topic, Your Children Can Change the World will be available from Seton Press March 1st 2016.)
This requires a rigorous academic education. Can you provide this on your own?
3. Are homeschool publishers aligning their materials to the Common Core State Standards?
I have not seen any Catholic educational resources specifically written for homeschoolers that align with the Common Core. Many homeschoolers use texts and other goods that are produced for brick and mortar schools, and some of these have aligned.
An excellent source of information about the CC status of various materials can be found at hsroadmap.org.
4. Some of my Catholic homeschool buddies use Protestant materials. Is there any downside?
Yes! Some Protestant materials are filled with anti-Catholic sentiments. Do you have the time to read every word to make sure your children are not exposed to ideas intended to turn them away from the truth?
Even if you have this time, do you really want to give money to publishing houses that would regard you leaving Holy Mother Church as a victory? Unless your children have special needs, and absolutely nothing else will do, pass on the Protestant publishers.