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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

What do You Consider the Most Important Subject to Teach Every Day?

1. Is it necessary to teach so many subjects every day?

Parents need to make the final decision about the importance of every subject. We believe that certain subjects should be taught every day, such as religion, math, English grammar and composition, phonics and reading comprehension. History and science are a close second, but for the lower grades, could be done on the weekends, or in the evenings, perhaps with Dad. Spelling and vocabulary could be done only a couple of times a week, but if your child is weak in these areas, you should try for more days a week. Most states require art and music at least. Physical education does not need to be structured, but it is important for children to get plenty of fresh air and exercise every day.

If possible, try to have history, science, spelling, and vocabulary every day, even if only for 20 minutes per day. These subjects often can be “taught” by an older sibling if necessary. A grandparent or another relative might like to come once a week, or more often, to help out on a subject or two.

2. I like a regular schedule for the home schooling “classes” but some of my friends like to have the children work on whatever topic of interest comes up.

The fact is that things get done when they are scheduled. Your friends take their daughter to ballet class when the teacher schedules it, and not when your daughter feels like going. The soccer coach insists that the boys show up at a certain time so all the players will be present at the games and practices.

Getting things done means scheduling a time for things to get done. If we want to be sure our children are learning their math, we need to schedule a math class every day. In academics, students will forget what they learned if they don’t review it often.

If there is not a daily schedule of study, meals, chores, getting up and going to bed, home life becomes hectic and frustrating for everyone. An individual might decide to live an unstructured kind of life, but a family with several children cannot thrive without at least basic structure.

Good health demands planned meals, planned exercise, and planned cleaning of clothes and cleaning of the house. Planned time for housework and study and hobbies and music lessons make accomplishments possible.

Experience has shown that people, especially children, like to know what to expect and when to expect lessons or sports or outside activities. Children need to know what is expected of them and when they should be prepared for the daily lessons or activities. Such mental and physical preparation is likely to produce success.

3. I would like to organize my home better to accommodate our daily homeschooling, but I am frustrated about how to begin.

If you know other homeschooling families, ask around and see if any feel confident about the organization in their home. Ask if you could visit and see how they have accommodated the homeschooling activities. While you would not likely copy their exact ideas, they should give you ideas.

Many families have a place where Mom does active teaching, while the other children are in another room, either at their own desk or at a table in the dining room or a family room. It is important that you either can see all the children or can be aware of what the children are doing. Televisions and computers need to be kept out of their reach unless you give permission.

It is important to have each child’s materials gathered together in one location so things can be found quickly and easily. Some families use bookcases, while others use large plastic containers, available at K-mart and similar stores. Most families have found that homeschooling is easier and more efficient if you have less furniture and if each piece of furniture has its permanent safe place. Many homes have too much furniture which needs to be cleaned, or moved to clean behind or under it.  Becoming detached from excessive material things isn’t only good spiritually; it also makes the home run more smoothly.

It is also important to a well-maintained home to keep appliances working.  You need to keep the stove, refrigerator, toilets, and sinks working properly. It is also important to have a good dishwasher, garbage disposal, washing machine, and dryer. These time-saving appliances are essential to free up your day for teaching several children. If you have a choice between saving a little money versus saving a lot of time, you’re almost always better off saving the time.

4. What do you consider the most important subject to teach every day?

The most important subject is religion. We are homeschooling because we want to teach Catholic values and the Catholic Faith to our children. Most homeschooling families in this country are Christian families who see that the public schools have completely eliminated religion from their classrooms. America was founded on religious principles, but with the intense movement to eliminate religion from our country, from our culture, from our schools, and from our children, we must take take seriously the responsibility to teach the Faith to our children.

The second most important subject to teach is reading, first phonics, then literature. There is an abundance of good literature available, if not in print, then in electronic format, available either for free on the Internet or for a small fee on iPad or Kindle. Before television and computers, children were reading a few hours every day, which developed their intellect and ability to consider ideas.

One of the best kinds of reading is biographies of great inventors, preferably  biographies which include the inventor’s process of thinking which led to the inventions. This stimulates the thinking process and should help our young people increase their analytical skills in a variety of areas. Reading biographies of great Catholic thinkers and great political thinkers can be the first step in creating a better society, for which we are in great need.

5. My husband has lost his job and I don’t know how I can continue home schooling.

There is no doubt that the current economic situation has severely impacted many families.  But, your children’s education is of the utmost importance.  If you think homeschooling is best for them, then somehow a way must be found to keep going.

Have you tried grandparents, uncles and aunts, other relatives, friends, priests, former homeschooling parents, and others who might help so that you can continue homeschooling? The Knights of Columbus help families in need, especially in regard to Catholic education. Some local and state homeschooling organizations receive money from HSLDA and other organizations to help homeschooling families in need. Some older families who are no longer home schooling may be interested in helping other families in some way; contact your local and state homeschooling organizations and support groups.

In cases in which both parents must work, homeschooling schedules will need to be adjusted, or new arrangements made.  Since many families are in the same predicament, you may be able to get together with other homeschooling families to set up up some group schooling. Group classes allow some parents to work while others teach.

Many people realize the importance to our communities of teaching Catholic values to future citizens. Remember, you are not asking for yourself but for the future of the community. Everyone has a vested interest in Catholic-educated future citizens.

6. Do you recommend breaks during the school year?

Parents need to decide what is best for their family. Obviously, if a baby is due during the year, Mom needs to plan for some time off. Perhaps the school year could start a couple of weeks early to plan for time off later. Some families start earlier, in August, sometimes even partial days, to plan for two weeks at Christmas, or two weeks at Easter. Some families do half-days throughout the summer, except for a two-week vacation. Some parents have children read for their books reports while on vacation. Some families take a week off at the end of each quarter. Homeschooling can adjust to the family schedule and family needs, which shows the children how Catholic education is a part of daily life, no matter when or where.

7. My high school student would like to take a part-time job, as well as take a class at the local community college. I am reluctant about it.

The months and years go by quickly, and some things need to be done in certain years. If the high school courses are not completed by the time your student is 18, it would take monumental persuasion and effort to make him continue to take the high school courses at a later age. Our society pressures young people to be finished  with high school by a certain age and, as much as we like to emphasize the importance of a quality education, the pressure to just finish is certainly there.

If the course at the local community college is one that Seton can accept, then he is continuing on track to finish his high school. A part-time job would be beneficial only if he is obtaining training in an area in which he intends to make his life work. Otherwise, we recommend he lets that go while he concentrates on his high school courses.

Some students take a year off after high school to work a full-time job or two part-time jobs to make money to start college. This is a better idea than having a part-time job interfere with high school study time and graduation.

About Dr. Mary Kay Clark

Director of Seton for more than 25 years. Dr. Clark left Mater Dei Academy and began teaching her children at home at seeing firsthand the opportunities and the pitfalls of private schooling. Meet Dr. Clark | See her book
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