SummaryAnna and Ed have chosen to homeschool to get their children to heaven of course but to also “Think for themselves. Eyes wide open. Be able to debate ideas.”
It was mid-October, and I was speaking by phone with Seton homeschool mom Anna Martin of Elkton, Florida, a town just outside of Saint Augustine.
In Anna’s voice, laughter, and words, I detected optimism, a determination to do her best for her children, and her love for her faith.
Anna and her husband Edward are the parents of Anthony, 11; Isabelle, 10; Mateo, 5; Clara, 3; and Santiago, 1. For five years, Anna has taught her children using the Seton Home Study School curriculum.
During our conversation, Anna could remember no specific reason for wishing to homeschool other than wanting to be a part of her children’s education. She and her husband particularly enjoy studying and discussing history and politics, and find the Seton history books “rich and accurate.” She informed me that she had one primary academic goal for her children: “Think for themselves. Eyes wide open. Be able to debate ideas.”
That interest in politics spilled over to the children. Recently, sixth-grader Anthony wrote a letter of encouragement and gratitude to President Donald Trump and was stunned to hear back from him. Here is a part of the email Anna wrote to us at Seton telling about Anthony’s exchange with President Trump:
“As part of a multifaceted school project, Anthony learned about the importance of Catholic political involvement in promoting a culture of life. In addition, he used his Seton English, cursive, handwriting and vocabulary skills to pen a letter to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, thanking them for their support and protection of the unborn.
Surprisingly, Anthony received a signed response from President Trump encouraging him to continue his political involvement in protecting all life as our Catholic faith dictates.”
Like most homeschool families, the Martins practice a juggling act in terms of schedules, work, academics, and extracurricular activities. Edward is the assistant manager for the local animal control department, and Anna works part-time as a “float pool nurse,” meaning she can pick and choose her assignments, and so perform her home and school duties as well. She also serves as the respect life coordinator for her parish.
Extracurricular activities in particular often present a challenge to large families. Getting Johnny to soccer, Mary to dance, Claire to piano, and Tim to his guitar lessons can transform homeschool moms into van-school moms. Because of the time the Martins were spending in the car, Anna’s mother bought her a special cooler just to use for carrying food and drinks while on the road.
The Beauty of One Club for All
This is why the local 4-H club has become a real time-saver for the family. “The kids can do activities together there,” Anna said, “which means less time in the car for all of us.” In 4-H, her children can choose from a wide variety of activities and classes, ranging from marine biology to baking, from sewing to photography. Mateo, for example, enrolled this year in the Clover Buds program and is already engaged in different science projects.
The club also offers a leadership camp, opportunities for public service, training in debate and public speaking, and various competitions. This year, Anthony won first place in the local photography contest and received a blue ribbon in the state competition.
For two years, Anthony has also participated in the 4-H Tropicana Speech Contest, winning second place each time. The contest seeks to increase their public speaking skills. Students have access to videos demonstrating how to write a speech, how to dress, and how to conduct themselves while on a stage or behind a podium.
Isabel has added to this collection of ribbons. She has won recognition in cookie baking, for various arts and crafts projects, and for her community service in cleaning up a local beach. The photograph she took of her baby brother Santiago gained her local recognition and was entered in the State 4-H Photo Contest.
The Martins also belong to a local homeschooling group, the Holy Family Catholic Home School in St. Augustine. The secretary at Anna’s parish told her about this organization, and here she and her family have found friendship, sustenance, and support in their homeschooling.
About forty families participate in HFCHS, which provides both recreation and fellowship for children of all ages and for their parents. The parents have organized two clubs—Little Flowers for the girls and Blue Knights for the boys—“to teach elementary school-aged children how to live their faith and lives of virtue.”
Support of Friends and Family
HFCHS also sponsors a monthly support group for parents. Anna emphasized the importance of belonging to such an organization if one was available—“It’s our main social group,” she said—and encourages new homeschooling families, in particular, to seek out such support and friendship.
Anna also mentioned the help of relatives and friends in making the success of homeschooling. When Anthony expressed a desire to serve daily Mass at their small parish church, St. Ambrose, Anna was reluctant to take on that task because of the younger children and the driving. Her mother-in-law, a retired Spanish teacher who teaches Spanish to the children, stepped up and now drives Anthony to daily Mass.
When we talked about the particular value of using the Seton program, Anna brought up a benefit I had never before considered. “Because we have used Seton from the beginning, our school day goes smoother. My kids know how the program works. They know how the day is going to flow.”
“Everybody’s different. One thing that helps me is that I constantly remind myself that my only job is to get my children to heaven. That’s a great relief. I just want them to carry on in their faith and for all of us to be in heaven someday.
Anna concluded, “Every day I struggle with something. I have to remind myself that homeschooling is worth the effort. That’s my most important motivator.”