Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Anticipating the New School Year


Many of you find your school day schedule continuously interrupted by telephone calls and even unannounced visits from relatives and friends. One mom told me, “My extended family lives nearby, and while they are supportive of my home school, they just don’t get it!

Getting ready for school involves more than books and lesson plans. In this timely reprint, Ginny Seuffert offers solutions for the inevitable obstacles that will come your way!

On weekends during the spring and early summer, I travel to Catholic home schooling conferences all over the United States.

Although I do not keep count, I bet I have spoken to literally thousands of Catholic moms and dads who are making huge sacrifices to teach their children at home.

From them I have gained a greater understanding of what works in our home schools, but at the same time I have learned the greatest challenges that face parents.

As the new school year approaches, now is the time to face these challenges head on and try to find some solutions that will work for you.

The Distraction Dilemma

Many of you find your school day schedule continuously interrupted by telephone calls and even unannounced visits from relatives and friends.

One mom told me,

“My extended family lives nearby, and while they are supportive of my home school, they just don’t get it! They phone and drop by all the time just to say hello.”

Another problem is presented by friends and family, who would never dream of asking a child to take the day off from public or parochial schools, asking older home educated children to baby sit for them (or walk their dog, feed the parakeet, etc.) because their usual arrangements fell apart.

The Distraction Solution

We must let others know that we take our home schooling seriously, and that we need a certain number of uninterrupted hours to complete it. Here are some ideas:

• Forget polite hints! Inform your circle of friends and family that you need so many hours of uninterrupted time, and that you will not be accepting calls or visits until after such and such a time everyday.

• Get voice mail for your telephone, and record some version of the following script, “Thanks for calling the Smith Family. School is in session right now, but if you leave your name and number, we will call you back after 3 o’clock.”

• If your mother drops by anyway, maybe she is looking for something to do! “Kids, look! It’s Grandma! She’s going to play with you while I teach your brothers and sisters.”

This is a win-win situation. Either Grandma bolts for the door, or you get some help with the little kids.

• People who are nervy enough to ask your child to skip school to perform some errand for them must be answered in a polite, but firm, manner.

“Oh my goodness, Janey does schoolwork until 2:30 everyday. She couldn’t possibly take time off in the middle of her school day!”

Order Overturned

Many of us relax over the summer months and do not keep to a tight schedule for wake-up, meals, and bedtime. Some of us also find our customary rules concerning the television, movies, and video games seem to be forgotten. A little laxness can be a nice break for everyone, but we have to get back on track if we want to have a successful school year.

Getting back on Track

The week before you plan to start the new school year, edge the children back into earlier bedtimes and a punctual wake-up call in the morning.

Try to reestablish regular and predictable mealtimes, and don’t forget to put a specific time aside for prayer everyday.

Set a firm policy concerning electronic entertainment and remind the children that it will be strictly enforced.

The Housework Hassle

Many moms have told me that they love home schooling, they love having babies, they love making delicious family meals and they love staying home, but there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all.

Some report that their houses are always messy, laundry is measured by mountains, and often supper is served so late that the younger children are nodding off in their soup bowls.

The Housework Solution

If you feel overwhelmed by everyday duties, you have lots of company! Here are some practical tips to restore order:

  • To minimize mess, buy a cheap laundry basket for each bedroom. Take a quick glance into the bedrooms as you walk by, and make sure that dirty laundry is in the basket, not on the floor.
  • Install a towel bar on the inside closet door in each bedroom. Insist the children hang up their bath towels to dry and use the same towel for a week.
  • Take a few days to train individual children to perform certain tasks like laundry, washing the dishes, preparing salads, sweeping or vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms. When you are satisfied that the child can safely perform the duty, make it a permanent assignment for the coming school year.
  • Set aside the last Saturday of the month as food prep day for the following month. Stock up on the meat, as well as canned, and dry foods you will use, and don’t forget to buy lots of big freezer bags. Here are a few ideas:
  • Make a big pot of tomato sauce with meatballs or sausage and freeze it in one-meal sizes. (Although my Italian ancestors will be spinning in their graves, I suppose you could buy several bottles of sauce.) At dinnertime, heat up the sauce, boil some pasta and add a salad.
  • Make a big pot of your family’s favorite soup or stew, and freeze individual bags that are enough for one family meal. You need add only noodles or potatoes, a few fresh veggies, and a loaf of bread on the day you defrost.
  • Buy boneless chicken breasts, clean and trim them, pound them or cut them into strips, season and freeze them in portions for individual meals. These make super fast and flexible dinners as you need only to sauté the cutlets, and serve them with pasta or rice, on top of a nice salad, or even on a Kaiser roll.

Many home schooling moms report that some frozen meals really get them through the tough days when everything seems to go wrong.

Remember the Reason

Finally, this time of year, it is a good idea to spend a few moments meditating on the reasons you started to home school in the first place and why it is imperative to see the job through.

I will continue to pen columns designed to help you with your housework, schoolwork, discipline and even stress levels, but we must be careful not to lose sight of what is really important.

The true goal of our Catholic home schooling is, with the grace of God, to form saints for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Keep this holy objective in mind this coming school year when things go wrong, when you fall behind, when the kids act up, and your house seems to be tumbling down around your ears.

There are two important points for you to ponder as you pray.

First, God’s grace is always sufficient for all of our needs, and is available for the asking.

Second, our vocation of educating our children at home is so vital to the Catholic Church in America that no sacrifice, no aggravation, no contradiction, no mess, and no exhaustion is so great that we should despair.

Take heart from the words of the Psalmist,

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him and be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame.” Psalms 34: 5-6

This is a reprint of an article Ginny wrote in August 2005. As timely now as it was then!

About Ginny Seuffert

Ginny Seuffert has been a leading writer and speaker about homeschooling and Catholic family life for more than two decades. She has given hundreds of talks at conferences and written three books. Meet Ginny | Ginny's Books
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