By Maureen Stowell
We are the last people that you would have thought would ever homeschool. My husband, Bruce, was a school board member for several years and president for the last of those years.
After trying out multiple career areas, I landed in a special education teaching assistant position and felt like I had come home. I loved those kids, crazy as it sounds, and the middle-school, behaviorally challenged students were actually my favorites.
We ourselves have 5 children, the three oldest of whom are public school success stories, long since grown, out of the house, and now raising their own children (well, the two oldest, anyway). Our two youngest, Haylee (12) and Molly (10) remain at home and are now on this surprising homeschool journey we’ve been called to take.
In the beginning, we were very lucky to have an incredible preschool for our daughters, so lucky, in fact, that both of them ended up extremely ahead of other children their same age. We entered Haylee in Kindergarten, where she did very well but academically was very far ahead of the game. Her strengths lay in Language Arts, though she also excels in math, science and history. She attended public school through the end of 2nd grade.
Molly had delightful preschool teachers, who believed that if she got a concept she should move on, so she ended up starting kindergarten being able to add, subtract, multiply, do fractions, etc. She also had and still has the strongest faith in and knowledge of God that I have ever seen in a child, a faith about which she’s never been quiet.
So with all apparently going so well, what could possibly go wrong? Well, the combination of Haylee’s severe allergies, anti-Catholic bullying at school, recent run-ins with poor-quality teachers, and the fact that our two daughters were academically very advanced caused us to consider alternatives.
In addition to the academic issues, Haylee ended up being picked to attend a school for acting in Washington, DC. She had been dancing since she was not even 2 and had started to compete, and Molly had recently joined her.
What with one thing and another, homeschooling ended up being our best option. Our family was all in New York, but we needed to move to the DC area for the girls’ activities. We needed to eliminate some negative influences that were cropping up in the public schools. We needed to keep our lives Catholic, and we also needed to ensure that our daughters would be able to progress at their own rates academically. Homeschooling would take care of all that.
That first year I jumped in head first with curriculum and virtually no support. It was hard but thanks to good friends, some of whom were teachers, we did very well and our children advanced incredibly.
In our search for end of the year testing, we discovered Seton. Hurray! It was an amazing collection of everything we needed, with full support and lesson plans. We had found what we had been searching for. Our daughters were covered under a real school, where they could learn at home at their own rate and then graduate, again, from a real school. The wonderful support of the counselors, the curriculum, and having it all planned out for us removed the stress from me, even while allowing me to retain flexibility for tailoring to the needs of each of my daughters. Most importantly, Seton’s curriculum “kept it Catholic,” which meant we could too.
Today, we are homeschooling in Clarksville, Tennessee. Haylee and Molly both love Seton’s material and are learning amazing things, all in the Catholic tradition. We have time for all of the doctors’ appointments that we have, and we just turn them into field trips.
Actually, we pretty much turn everything and every place we go into a field trip, even dance competition trips. We love visiting cathedrals and shrines. We often check out historical places, which Virginia, New York and Tennessee all have in great abundance. We find historical sites or science museums, art museums, etc. when we are away on trips for dance. Even amusement parks offer a multitude of science and math lessons these days, and many also have historical sections.
There are many days during the school year when we just take a day off for exploring the parks in the area or the library. Both girls enjoy baking and, more importantly, both regularly volunteer help to members of the community in need. Seton gives us tons of family time, and allows time for the girls’ activities. Seton being fully Catholic helps us to keep our family Catholic and to learn more about our Lord, our faith and our Church every day.
A Day in the Life
One of the important things Seton has made possible is time for the girls to make crafts, which they sell to help fund their dance lessons and competition fees. This has taught the girls important financial and life lessons, as they learn about the costs of things and managing money, while also realizing the expense and sacrifice that their mom and dad undergo so that they can continue to expand their talents.
Our typical school day at home begins with daily preparations and breakfast; then we go up to the classroom. Nothing else happens in the classroom until we’ve said morning prayers, made the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and done some singing, usually one Catholic song, one patriotic and one “fun”. Right now, we are using songs to memorize the books of the Bible. We’ve found that as often as not, facts, dates, names, and lists are memorized more easily if they are put to music.
After these initial activities, we dig in to the academics, and it’s here that I see the huge benefit to Seton. First, Seton keeps it Catholic. Second, if either of the girls has already mastered the material in any subject, she simply takes the test. This ensures that Haylee and Molly are each moving at their own pace, not going back over things they already know but moving forward appropriately. They don’t have a chance to become bored.
Molly is in 5th grade but has progressed through 7th grade Math. Haylee finished 6th grade last year while doing 7th grade Language Arts and has gone directly to 8th grade. Our normal school day usually ends by lunch time or shortly after. Then there is outside time, baking time, television programming that ties in with what we are learning, or just quiet time until the girls go to dance and I go to work.
Thinking over these past few years with Seton, I am so glad we discovered homeschooling and so glad we discovered Seton. I hear a lot of parents say that Seton is very hard to keep up with, but I disagree.
I think if you look at Seton as a whole, allow the counselors to help you, and realize that the lesson plans are a guide instead of being set in stone, you and your children will do very well. If your child has mastered something, move on; if he or she hasn’t, then allow more time. My girls have tested out of a significant amount of the material.
I guess what I mean is that I think we can all take time to relax and have a little fun. After all, family togetherness is one of the best things about homeschooling with Seton.