Homeschooling 101 (Part One)
Catholic Homeschooling: Can I Do It?
Are you considering homeschooling? Or new to it and still trying to find your bearings? This post is for you!
The early days of homeschooling can be tricky. You’ve got the vision for what you hope to accomplish but are still finding your way. Maybe your family and friends don’t support your decision. Maybe you are worried you about making mistakes or “messing up” your child. Maybe you are just overwhelmed by the amount of options and materials out there.
Remember, no one knows or loves your child better than you. You may not be an expert at algebra or history or literature, but you are the expert when it comes to your child. You are the primary educator of your child; you are going to do what you need to do to ensure your child is well-educated. The investment of a parent in their child is unique, and is at the heart of the homeschooling philosophy. You do have what it takes to educate your child!
You are capable!
But what if we are still a little scared? What if we feel incapable of taking on this responsibility?
Welcome to the club! Dealing with feelings of inadequacy is something every homeschooling parent deals with now and then. It is made worse by our culture’s tendency to elevate “experts” as the final authority on matters educational. But consider this: even if you don’t have a degree, who taught your child how to walk? Who taught your child to talk and have good manners? To dress himself? To know and love Jesus? You did all those things, without the help of experts! You took a child who couldn’t speak and taught him proper English. That is impressive!
Of course, sometimes you will need to reach out for help in tough subjects. Homeschooling doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself. Teaching calculus to a high school senior might simply be beyond you, and that’s okay! There’s ways to get around these tough subjects. Bring in a tutor. Connect with other families to leverage the education and resources of other parents. Take online Catholic classes. If you don’t have the gifts, find someone who does! Part of responsible parenting is knowing when to delegate.
Resist the urge to compare
There may be times when your friends have all of their children in a site-based school, and you think, “Gosh, I can’t do everything a regular school can do. How can I possibly compare?”
Comparing can be a dangerous black hole we let our minds slip into! We need to keep things in perspective. You may feel like you can’t do everything, but a school can’t do everything either! The old adage “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” comes into play here. Institutional schooling is an entirely different model of education than homeschooling; it has its strengths, but it has plenty of weaknesses as well. What we really need to consider is our goal. The goal of homeschooling is not fact-stuffing; rather, it is creating a joy and love for learning. Strive to create life-long learners, so when your children need to learn something in life, they can. You are not trying to jam their brains full of content, you are trying to establish a foundation of discovery. This is what makes you a success, not whether you imitate everything the “school” is doing.
Find your tribe!
One of the most important things to do when we start homeschooling is to “find your tribe.” This means getting plugged in to a local homeschooling community. This is tremendously important. For one thing, plugging into a community gives you access to whatever resources that community has at its disposal. You may not know Latin, but Mrs. Jones does; you can’t tutor physics, but Mr. Henderson can. And this works both ways—you, too, have skills to offer that other parents lack. Getting involved with that community is a way to leverage the skills and resources of the entire community. Y
ou can also use the community to build clubs: a homeschool sports league, drama club, band, or any other cooperative endeavor that will enrich your homeschool experience.
But perhaps more importantly, a homeschool community will give you support to boost morale on tough days. You need other moms to talk to when you have questions or to have coffee with when you get burnt out.
How can you find these communities? A great way to start is to go to your parish. Parish priests generally know who the homeschooling families are in their area and can put you in contact with them. Googling “homeschool support” in your area is also helpful. Another great way to meet homeschoolers is to go places during the day with your family when other children are in school. If you see other parents out with their children as well, you know you’ve run into other homeschoolers.
While I don’t want to get too far into specific pedagogical methods in this post, I do want to stress one activity you will find immensely beneficial, and that is read alouds. At its most basic level, a read aloud is simply one-on-one time reading to your child. This practice is extremely beneficial and something your children are highly unlikely to get in any institutional school. Children who are read to develop a more sophisticated vocabulary and better grammar skills because they are hearing language being used. It also creates an important emotional bond; their brain will equate reading with joy and familial intimacy.
You can also add other elements into a read aloud to reinforce what the kids are learning. For example, spend 15 minutes reading a Bible or saint story, then ask the child to retell the story back to you. Then have them draw a picture of the story. This is a very simple routine, but it makes a huge difference towards building comprehension and communication skills. And it is tremendously bonding! It’s good parenting and good education wrapped up in one.
For tips on read alouds, I recommend my article “How to Read Aloud: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques.”
The opportunities homeschooling affords really are endless, limited only by your creativity! I will revisit this subject again in future posts, but in the meantime, why not take a look at our Homeschool Saints podcast episode where I talk to Lisa Mladinich about homeschooling basics? You can listen online here or on your favorite podcasting app. If you prefer video, see below.
For Part Two of this post see: Homeschooling 101 Part Two