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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Advice for New Homeschoolers


New homeschoolers – Many others have walked this path, persevered, and overcome obstacles. These travelers can offer support and advice in your adventure.

You’re new to homeschooling.

You’ve researched a dozen programs. You’ve talked to friends and family, some of them enthusiastic about your decision, others doubtful.

You’ve selected your curricula, you’ve listened to speakers at book fairs or watched YouTube videos about teaching children at home, and you’ve laid in enough paper, pens, and pencils to supply an army of clerks for three years.

Now the first day of school is at hand.

And you’re terrified.

You’re plagued by doubts and questions. Am I good enough to teach my children? Will teaching them change our relationship?

Is the education I want to provide them superior to what they might find elsewhere?

Sure, I can teach the multiplication and division tables, but what happens when we tackle geometry?

In high school, I despised history, so how can I even dream of teaching that subject to my seventh grader?

What Was I thinking?

Let’s start with that last question.

You were thinking of the spiritual and intellectual welfare of your children. Within the constraints of your personal circumstances, you wanted to give them the best education possible. You wanted to help your kids become the best they can.

When my wife and I were homeschooling our four children, we owned and operated a bed-and-breakfast, a bookstore, and a Catholic home-education mail order company. Kris often worked outside the home, teaching nursing students in a nearby town.

Three Rules for Homeschooling:

As a result, for several years I did much of the teaching. At various conferences we attended, I also sold books and was an occasional speaker. When asked by parents new to homeschooling for tips, I gave three general suggestions:

  1. Begin your homeschooling at the same time every day. The hour doesn’t particularly matter, but begin at the same time. A school day might fall apart because of obligations or emergencies, but always begin at the same time.
  2. Conduct your schooling in the same location. It doesn’t matter where—the dining room, the card table in the den, the screened-in porch. Young people, especially children, thrive on routine. Setting an hour and a place for school gives them that routine.
  3. Buy a plastic storage bin for each child’s school supplies. For the first three years of our homeschooling, we often spent precious minutes every morning tracking down a textbook or a worksheet. Returning books and supplies to those bins guaranteed starting school on time.

These and so many other tips I either learned through trial and error or from families who mentored me, sharing their advice and experiences, what worked for them and what failed.

In its ongoing effort to support homeschooling parents, Seton Home Study School encourages such mentoring. It offers conferences and speakers, and assistance by phone or email from members of the staff.

On your MySeton page you will find the Connect With Seton Families program, which arranges for Seton families living near each other to make contact.

Advice From Experienced Homeschool Moms

In April 2019, Seton put this post on its Facebook page:

“What is your best advice for a mom who is just beginning her homeschooling journey?

The question brought a number of responses, some of them lengthy, some short, some long on inspiration, others much more practical.

Let’s look at a few of these replies.

Several of the moms stressed tackling the challenges of homeschooling on a day-to-day basis rather than fretting about the future. Kim G. writes “One day at a time! It is hard work but you can do it! Be organized!” Pamela L. seconds this idea: “So I’m on week 4 and this is our first year homeschooling. I would have to say take it one day at a time.”

In her response to the Seton survey question, Lori J. reminds novice homeschool moms and dads to avoid too many outside obligations:

“Have books, will travel,” is always a good thing but remember you also have to be home to homeschool. Try not getting too involved in extracurricular activities. Pick one or two activities that your children enjoy and keep it to that. Also, take care of yourself. If you need to rest, rest; you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Finally, stay close to the sacraments. Daily Mass (when you can make it, even if it’s just on Wednesdays to give you a mid-week boost!) can be a source of strength!”

Lori J.’s advice—you can’t pour from an empty cup and stay close to the sacraments—was the message of several other parents as well. Most parents who teach their children at home can feel themselves run ragged by school, housekeeping duties, meetings, obligations to relatives and friends, and the wear-and-tear of everyday living. As an antidote, Ginger F. offers this list:

  1. Pray.
  2. Remember, every day, why you’re doing this.
  3. Ask questions. Seton has wonderful resources.
  4. Have a little fun each day.
  5. Have an outlet for yourself to recharge.

Several others reinforce Ginger’s five tips, advising parents to pray, to attend daily Mass when possible, to relax, and to make patience part of the curriculum. Michelle S. reminds us that “homeschooling is not a race.” Jari W. writes, “Relax. God is with you.” Susan K. wisely says, “Know there will be bad days. We all have them.”

Several moms turned our attention to the greater reasons for homeschooling. Mae A. points out the importance of teaching virtue: “Character over curriculum. I learned this lesson from other moms as well so it’s not all mine. But it has become our mission and vision in life in general.”

Getting Our Kids to Heaven

Thirty years ago, I interviewed a Catholic homeschool mom for our diocesan newspaper. When I asked her why she was teaching her children at home, she said without pause, “To help them get into heaven!” All the respondents to the Seton survey would surely agree. As Laura T. tells us: “Raise your kids for HEAVEN, not a lesson plan.”

Homeschooling can be a daunting proposition, yet newcomers and even old-timers should be aware that they are not alone. Many others have walked this path and have persevered and overcome obstacles. These travelers can offer support and advice in this adventure.

As Jennifer G. tells us:

“Yes, you CAN do this!”

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