- Adopted from Ukraine
- Pregnant with Surprise
- Daily Influence
- What We’ve Learned
- 1. In Homeschooling, Not Every Day Will be Perfect, but Every Day will be Blessed.
- 2. Why yes, as a matter of fact, you are your brother’s keeper.
- 3. It is Neither Practical nor Kind to Expect One Person (i.e. – Momma) to be the House Servant to Eight Selfish Slobs.
- 4. Like it or Not, a Schedule Makes Life Easier.
- 5. Choose a Homeschool Curriculum that Fits Your Family.
- About Maria Nauman
I’m a cradle Catholic, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the premier archdiocese of the United States. Here, when someone asks, “Where did you go to school?” they mean which Catholic high school you attended (e.g. – Mount de Sales, Cardinal Gibbons, St. Joe, etc.), rather than which college or university. Baltimore is a big-small-town, and its Catholic community even more so.
In this environment, our New Jersey-born parents raised my sister and me with twelve wonderful years of Catholic school. We were not just informed by our Faith: our entire lives were permeated by it.
So when it came time for my own husband, a convert, and I, to send our children to school, Catholic school was our only consideration. Well, except for Nicholas.
Adopted from Ukraine
I had been married for nine years and finally diagnosed as infertile, when Prince Charming and I decided to navigate the labyrinth of adoption. We were rewarded with our first son, adopted from Ukraine. “There are plenty of kids in the world,” I shrugged happily. “Let’s just start buying them up!”
So in 2000, we adopted Nicholas, a nine-month-old boy weighing only nine pounds, who had endured abdominal surgery, pneumonia, a cleft palate, and over a dozen other purported ailments.
But, when you long for a child and someone finally hands you one, you don’t say, “Well, this one isn’t good enough.”
We were elated! After a month in-country, our trans-Atlantic flight skimmed out of the former Soviet Union with our son tucked safely between us. We took him home, fed him, loved him up, and thankfully many of his lesser diagnoses were unfounded. But, he did have a cleft palate and severe cerebral palsy, so “school” meant special education.
Not inclusion. Not mainstreaming. Not least restrictive environment.
The United Cerebral Palsy’s Delrey School became the Munchkinland to our Kansas. “School” was a blessing! Then God surprised us.
Pregnant with Surprise
We were in the grocery store one day when Prince Charming gave me a queer look and said, “I think you’re pregnant.”
I frowned, disgruntled. “I think you’re crazy.”
He grinned. “I’m going to get a pregnancy test.”
I frowned harder. “I’m going to get cupcakes. I’ll meet you at the register.”
Nine months later, he was right. (Hey, we can do this!) After that, a new kid arrived every two years, whether we were ready or not… and believe me, we were not ready for some of them.
When our second child, a girl, was ready for kindergarten, we chose an exemplary local Catholic school, paid tuition, bought cute uniforms, stockpiled her backpack with 487 lbs. of supplies, and happily drove an hour roundtrip daily.
Within two weeks, I regretted it. Deeply.
Not only would she sleep from exhaustion the entire ride home (“Oh, she’ll get used to it,” other parents chirped) and have more work to do that evening, but my sunny, generous, cheerful daughter had become sullen, defensive, and insecure.
The school itself was wonderful. It was begun by homeschool families loyal to the Magisterium. Yet I noticed bumper stickers in the parking lot for pro-abortion politicians or “alternative” lifestyles.
“Well, she has to learn to get along with everyone, you know,” people groused. So we stayed.
By Easter we were counting the days.
I should have been stronger and pulled the plug. The school wasn’t the problem. It was the unrelenting daily influence of other children and families who did not share the same moral goals, values, and standards of behavior that we did. Some people send their children to Catholic school because they live their Faith. Some people do because they’re paying the school to raise their kid.
It took another year for my daughter to begin to believe again in her inherent value as a child of God. “Children are resilient,” people said. “She’ll heal.”
And children are cruel. It had been a mistake to throw my lamb to the wolves before I had taught her self-defense. Just because the cultural cess pool was out there, didn’t mean I had to let her swim in it.
So now here we are with six children, the rest of whom arrived in the natural way. (Isn’t God hilarious!?)
What We’ve Learned
We are. Therefore we homeschool.
Look, I can’t tell you how to run your homeschool. I can tell you only what’s worked well for mine. Without Seton, I would flounder and rate myself a failure. With Seton, I have academic structure, substance, accountability, and enough flexibility to support each child.
The Catechism teaches that “the role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (2221). Be confident that God will give you the grace to run your household and your homeschool so that you ALL will know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him together forever in the next!
1. In Homeschooling, Not Every Day Will be Perfect, but Every Day will be Blessed.
When I die, the Lord will not care about my children’s algebraic or musical prowess. He will, however, want to know how I shaped the souls He entrusted to my care. With five kids under ten and Nicholas’s therapy and school schedule, we only can make daily Mass on Fridays. Sowe watch EWTN’s Mass during breakfast or lunch. And on days when the toddlers are running through the house like Grant through Richmond, the baby’s diaper explodes on the new carpet, I step barefoot in the dog’s vomit, the washing machine blows up, and every child needs my hand-held help, every second, in every subject, then we call that a “Character Building Day” and move on. In the immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Moral: Tomorrow will be better…it has to be!
2. Why yes, as a matter of fact, you are your brother’s keeper.
Having a child with special needs is not my responsibility. He is our responsibility. (So is our elderly neighbor. So is our new baby. So is our Grandmom. ….oh, did I mention my mother lives with us, too?) We are blessed to have family and not be alone in this world. So on days when our oldest son is home, his needs take precedence, which means all hands on deck to help mind the baby, teach the pre-schoolers, and keep up with lunch and laundry. My kids are delighted when they master a concept and can explain it to little ones! And the skill of preparing and serving food, and each other, will serve them better throughout life than being choosy about the handouts they get in a cafeteria line.
Moral: If we all make it to Heaven, we can thank each other for opportunities to be unselfish!
3. It is Neither Practical nor Kind to Expect One Person (i.e. – Momma) to be the House Servant to Eight Selfish Slobs.
I cannot run a tight ship with lay-about deckhands, so one of my favorite phrases to hear is, “Can I help, Momma?” From the lips of a toddler, however, this can be both endearing and exasperating. But, rest assured that the (albeit sometimes painful) time invested in teaching Junior at an early age how to empty trash cans, dust shelves, put toys away, or make a peanut butter sandwich, will be rewarded richly with a capable youth who is a generous, active, effective, contributing member of your domestic church and a marvelous future spouse for some fortunate soul.
Moral: Helping hands not only speed a task and make light work; they also teach a heart of service and self-determination, qualities that carry over beautifully in the school room.
4. Like it or Not, a Schedule Makes Life Easier.
I have neither the time nor the inclination for chore charts, points, prizes, and ticker tape parades just because you blew your nose. Thus, every child has simple, daily, common courtesy chores (e.g. – make bed, put dirty clothes in laundry cart, empty dishwasher, clear place at meals, etc.). They also each have a sheet in a page protector with his/her wake-up and bedtime lists (using either clip art or words, as needed).
Weekly, we clean bathrooms on Monday, vacuum on Tuesday (or as needed), dust on Wednesday, and fold and put away laundry on Thursday. (We pared our clothes down to 10-15 outfits each, plus church clothes. You only wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time anyway, so purge!) Older children have increasing areas of responsibility, and additional chores may be performed for monetary (or other) compensation, from which they must save and donate and spend a portion. Taxes or other penalties may be assessed for neglect or infractions.
Moral: Parents love to read aloud the “Little House on the Prairie” series for a reason! We ALL must help maintain the blessed life we enjoy.
5. Choose a Homeschool Curriculum that Fits Your Family.
Nicholas must have 40 minutes of my undivided attention to get ready for school, during which time the other children (theoretically) dress, make their beds, and pick up books or debris from the previous evening. Younger children have an older buddy to help him/her. Then it’s time for breakfast and school.
As much as I would love to construct my own classical curriculum, I simply can’t. So Seton Home Study School works perfectly for me. I greatly appreciate the plethora of Catholic homeschool resources out there, but Seton’s “curriculum in a box” gives me structured lesson plans, voluminous materials, recommended supplements, and authentic Catholic content – without my having to invest time researching and planning.
So – if the lesson plan says that on Week 13, Day 4, we’re to be on page 72 doing items 1-4… are we?
Um, no. Frequently not. Each child progresses at his/her pace in each subject.
When my daughter independently read and understood The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in first grade, we breezed through phonics and instead spent more time on history and math, not finishing the latter until July. Seton recommends tailoring their materials to each child, and as the resident expert on my children, I do.