by Steven and Joy Domangue
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Life does not always turn out as we expect! We are Steven and Joy Domangue and we have been married since 1994. Although we intended to have a large family, several years without growing our family made it clear that adoption would be our only alternative. It was a roller coaster ride dealing with adoption agencies, state governments, social workers and lawyers, but in 2002, we adopted our son Phillip as a newborn.
Our Parenting Journey
What we thought we knew about rearing children in the beginning has been replaced with the reality of learning from our mistakes. Over the years, we have asked others whom we trust for advice and have found ways to overcome obstacles. When we have been successful, it has been because we have willingly accepted and followed the Catholic Church’s teachings.
We first heard about homeschooling through Steven’s oldest sister, who had been homeschooling her children in Colorado. We also knew families from St. Francis Academy (SFA), a local homeschool group. Steven and I noticed that these large families had well-behaved children who were very knowledgeable in their faith. We recognized that their experiences could definitely help us when we would be traveling down the unfamiliar road of homeschooling. We started attending meetings with SFA when Phillip was two.
When we began homeschooling, we were choosing books from different sources and it was difficult to be organized. This changed when we joined Seton Home Study School. The curriculum was challenging for Phillip and, as his teacher, the organization helped me stay on target. Catholicism was gently woven throughout the workbooks and texts of each subject, which meant that religion was not just a subject but a part of living our faith in everyday life. Using Seton’s online services made keeping track of Phillip’s grades simple.
Over the years, I had noticed things with Phillip that seemed odd, such as his dislike for coloring, his difficulty in using scissors, and most of all, his unusual spelling patterns that often made no sense, despite instruction. As for his frequently unreadable handwriting, I thought he simply wasn’t trying.
Seton counselors were valuable in helping us learn that Phillip has a condition similar to dyslexia called dysgraphia. This is a processing issue that affects his motor skills and makes writing difficult for Phillip. However, Phillip has a gift for memorization which allows him to recite large amounts of information accurately. Seton staff helped us adapt to a different teaching method that was beneficial to his learning style. I thank God that I am now able to see my son’s struggles and work with him to overcome them.
We have never regretted our decision to homeschool, and began seeing the benefits early on. We see how homeschooling builds a strong, lasting bond between parents and children. I appreciate the opportunity to foster an enthusiasm for learning and reading in my son. The Catholic morals and values learned at home are supported and nourished by the education received through Seton’s homeschooling curriculum.
However, homeschooling doesn’t stop at the closing of books or the ringing of a bell. It is a way of life for both the parents and the children. As his parents, we are able to see problems as they arise, instead of hearing about them later when they may have been magnified. By remaining consistent in teaching our beliefs to our son, we can give him the tools to follow God’s plan, hoping and praying that he will take with him the values which we have tried to instill in him.
Whenever I find myself confronted with the question “Why do you homeschool?”, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Why wouldn’t we?” I think back to those early days spent with my baby, watching and helping him grow and learn. Those times are not gone. We are still growing and learning together, for learning is a never ending adventure.
Father Van Constant and Father Will Comellas have been our spiritual advisors, confessors and good friends and have been a tremendous source of inspiration in our lives. They offer the Tridentine Latin Masses at the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, where Phillip serves as an altar boy. Their spiritual guidance for our group has been invaluable and they are very supportive of the homeschool families in their mission.
In my God-given role as the head of the family, it is my job to make sure that the family stays on target. I must be receptive to what the family needs for accomplishing our goals. This means stepping in and handling the discipline when needed. It also includes offering encouragement and guidance to Joy in resolving issues. If I am disengaged, the chances of success are diminished. I firmly believe that fathers need to be involved so that they can help mothers reduce the stresses that eventually lead to discouragement.
As I see it, developing and maintaining a good attitude is more important than good grades. Good attitudes tend to lead to successful academics as lifelong habits of learning are developed. This good attitude is important for all of the members of the family to maintain, however, because children learn attitudes, good or bad, by our example more than our words.
The best way to determine if homeschooling was successful is if your children continue the tradition by doing the same with their children. If they do not see the value in homeschooling and their experiences are largely negative, it is unlikely that they will choose the same path when it is their choice. We work hard in our family to make sure that homeschooling remains a positive experience.
We have been told by other parents that homeschooling is going to hurt Phillip’s social skills. Many times, these same parents allow their kids unlimited access to TV, video games and the Internet. We prefer the traditional and tested method of interacting with people of all ages. We do enjoy watching movies, but we screen them first, to ensure they won’t work against what we are teaching Phillip, and we discuss the lessons in the movies so that those teaching moments are not lost.
Above all, I think it is very important to explain “why” we believe what we believe to Phillip. As he gets older, we continually reveal more of the “why” so he is able to better understand and value our reasons and our faith. Homeschooling gives us the time to pass down our unfiltered beliefs and traditions to him.
What We Have Learned
As much as possible, we try to do activities as a family because we know this time together will not last forever. We firmly believe that fathers and mothers are the primary educators of their children. We look at the end result that we desire instead of the day-to-day challenges that can sidetrack our family. We try to handle problems as they occur instead of letting them build to something bigger.
Living our Catholic Faith is vital to our family, and homeschooling definitely fits into that equation. Like all other faithful parents, we know that teaching the Faith is our most important task, as we hope that each of us will reach Heaven. All parents have faults and shortcomings, and we definitely have our share of them. However, we strive each day to improve ourselves as we make our journey to God and our eternal home.
Phillip is an active boy who has a vivid imagination, enjoys playing sports, reading adventure books, and wrestling with his Dad. He is good at procrastinating on his chores, asking millions of questions, and finding ways to be distracted from the current task at hand.