SummaryAmong Michele Evans advice for new homeschooling families “trust that God will take care of you. Take a deep breath and pray, and everything will work out.”
Someone once encouraged Michele Evans to put her children in school and go to work.
“I’d rather eat ramen noodles,” she replied, “and keep my kids at home.”
Let’s pay a visit to this stouthearted and determined mom with a gift for laughter, her husband Tristan, and her children 11th-grader Owen, 8th-grader Janelle, and 4th-grader Ian, all of whom have been enrolled with the Seton Home Study School since kindergarten.
Inspired by some fathers he’d met in a Catholic men’s group, it was Tristan who first suggested they try homeschooling, an idea utterly foreign to Michele. He designed a pre-school program for Owen, and when kindergarten rolled around, Michele asked a friend what they should do next. Nancy, a mother of six who later died of cancer, recommended Seton. “She was an inspiration to me,” Michele says, “and when I pray, I ask for her help.”
In early 2012, shortly after Ian’s birth, disaster struck. Tristan was diagnosed with advanced Stage 3 colon cancer. After months of treatment, he recovered, but as Michele says, “If we hadn’t caught it when we did, he probably wouldn’t be here today.” While she was with him in the hospital and at chemotherapy, family and friends pitched in and helped with the two older children’s education, guided by Seton’s lesson plans.
At about this same time, Michele and Tristan founded an online Catholic bookstore, TKC Catholic Bookstores at www.tkcus.com. They had originally planned to open a brick-and-mortar store as well, but with Tristan’s illness they put those ambitions aside.
Each of the Evans children has a special interest. Owen is fascinated with drawing and recently won third place in the Rush Revere T-Shirt Design contest, which is connected to Rush and Kathryn Limbaugh’s Rush Revere books. Janelle loves baking, and Ian is a “Minecraft fanatic and Lego maniac who could also play board games all day long.”
The family belongs to the Association of Roman Catholic Homeschoolers, or ARCH, where the three young people visit with friends, take field trips and engage in all sorts of other social activities.
The Evans generally begin their homeschooling day between 8:30 and 9:00, work on their lessons for three or four hours, break for lunch, and finish up their schoolwork in the afternoon. Their 78-year-old aunt, Marcy Veccity, who lives with them, helps with this schooling, working for the most part with Ian.
Flexibility, Benefits, and Freedom
When asked what advantages she’d found in homeschooling, Michele had some ready answers. First up was the flexibility “that allows us to move at our own pace.” She adds, “I love the freedom to be able to do things that have nothing to do with school,” and cites as an example the burial of a great-uncle, a veteran of World War II, in Arlington National Cemetery, a unique and moving experience which the family was able to attend.
“I’m not sure we could have gone if the kids were in a regular school. That flexibility is just amazing, and my kids are getting an excellent education as well.”
Next up on her list of the benefits of teaching in the home was the independence of outside circumstances. When a friend asked her how the pandemic had affected her life, Michele responded, “Mmmm…I have to wear a mask in the grocery store.” Unlike so many parents during the lockdown, homeschooling meant no disruption in her children’s education.
Finally, Michele stressed that homeschooling allows her children with greater freedom in learning. “Each of my children learns uniquely.
Once I determined their learning styles, I was able to tailor the lessons to their needs. They would not get this type of attention in traditional schools.” As an example, she mentions her daughter Janelle, who had difficulty with spelling until Michele figured out her daughter was an auditory learner.
Janelle now learns spelling by listening to words on tape at night before bedtime.
In her response to a Seton survey asking “What do you love most about Seton Home Study School?” Michele wrote, “The authentic Catholic education which Seton provides weaves the beauty of Catholicism throughout ALL subjects.”
Take a Deep Breath and Pray
Her advice to those new to homeschooling, especially with the younger set, is two-fold: “you can’t mess up your child’s early education” and “always pray.” She often gets calls from new homeschooling moms of kindergarteners who ask “My daughter took only an hour to do her lessons today. What’s wrong?” to which Michelle answers with a smile “Nothing.” In other words, the younger set from kindergarten to third or fourth grade requires much less time learning at home than in regular schools.
Michele also reminds new families who contact her to “trust that God will take care of you. Take a deep breath and pray, and everything will work out.”
In these times in which we live, that’s sound advice, not just for new or old homeschoolers, but also for Catholics everywhere.