How do you do it? That’s the question you’re sure to be asked when you tell someone new that you home school your children. Be it the curious customer standing behind you in the grocery store line or cousin Ed at the family reunion, someone, or better yet someones, are going to want to know if you are actually sane enough to make such a choice and they’ll test your mental stability by asking for an explanation.
And, if one of your home schooled kids is in close proximity, the inquisitor will also quiz little Johnny on his ABC capabilities and his grasp of the American system of democracy. Be ready.
Answer the Question for Yourself
The first step then, if you are thinking about home schooling or even if you’re deciding whether to stay the course in your home school journey, is to answer the why question for yourself. Why do YOU want to home school?
Honestly, I think home schooling is best thought of as a vocation, or your calling as a parent. Because home schooling your children is more than just instructing them in the subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic. Home schooling is about forming the whole person.
Part of My Vocation
As a spouse, your vocation to marriage leads you to be open to receiving new life; and that obviously led you to parenthood if you are thinking about home schooling. As a Catholic, the catechism reminds us that God intends parents to be the primary educators of their sons and daughters.
But He doesn’t leave us to the task without assistance. He also endows us with the tools, that is the grace and talents, to fulfill our vocations. Early on, for me, I recognized home schooling as a natural choice and an off-shoot of my marriage vocation.
The Important Lesson
The important lesson here is to seek God’s plan for the education of your children, not your mom’s or your father-in-law’s plan (or even mine). Once He plants the seed of your vocation in your heart, nurture it and protect against discouragement by others who have another vocation.
You are fully capable of fulfilling this call and you’ll receive sufficient grace to do so. Yes, He’ll even give you the grace to endure having to administer 6 different tests on the same day while rocking the baby on your left hip as your 4 year old feeds you a playdough hamburger.
The Wiser Investment
When you think about it, basing your child’s educational opportunities solely on the location of your residence seems insufficient when you consider the ramifications. But that is exactly what most parents, who send their children to the local public school, are doing.
Those same parents put so much thought into choosing organic baby food and the perfect décor for their infant’s bedroom, but they often give little to no serious thought about where or how their children will be educated. Saving for college is a noble goal, but giving your children a strong base and teaching them how to be lifelong learners is a wiser investment. Home schooling can afford you the opportunities to do both.
God Didn’t Give My a Way Out
Honestly, I count myself as lucky, or better yet blessed, because God gave me a mission and knowing my weaknesses he hasn’t offered me an “out” so far. The longer I home school, the more I’ve come to understand that there isn’t another equal opportunity for my children.
The public school system has too many flaws, from poor achievement records to negative peer influences. Not to mention that schooling without God’s at the center of the day is a no-go; since my hope is to teach my children to know, love and serve God with their whole lives. Charters schools are simply the same “rose” just by a different name, as are too many Catholic schools.
Raising a large family in this day and age is a challenge, the least of which is not the family budget, so private schools are cost prohibitive for us. As I said, God knew me well enough to know that well-intentioned road blocks were needed to keep me on the straight and narrow road of this vocation. I thank Him often for His wisdom.
Mama Said There’d Be Days Like These
There will be days (when the baby is crying, your 5th grader is begging for help with a math problem, your 7th grader wants your undivided attention, your teens are debating the existence of alien life on Mars when they should be doing math, and your 4 year old is running laps around the school table) when you’ll doubt yourself or when those well-meaning psych evaluations from strangers will cause you to second-guess your own sanity. It’s in those moments of weakness, frustration and self-doubt that you’ll remember that home schooling is your vocation, God’s intention for you and for your children.
Along the way, remember to soak in the little moments with your children since YOU will actually be with them. Bask in the joy of the baby’s smile while he sits on your hip. Revel in the excitement of your 4 year old’s rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Pat yourself on the back as your third grader reads a book on her own. Be encouraged when the 5th grader remembers to walk the dog and make her bed before starting her grammar lesson. Feel proud that your self-sufficient teen achieved an A+ on his term paper.
Nurturing Your Vocation/Protect Your Choice
Once we’ve decided to home school, nurture your vocation by surrounding yourself with supportive friends. Read good books to encourage and inspire you. Talk to home school veterans to gleam ideas and discover their tricks. Attend home school conferences and workshops.
Finding information on the internet helps, but to avoid overload, choose a few favorite sites and ignore the others. So many resources exist today that it can be overwhelming. Focus on a few and stick with what makes the most sense to you and what works for your child.
Pray regularly: pray for guidance, pray for strength, pray for wisdom, pray for your sanity, pray. And then trust that you are the right person for this job.
Is Katie Ready For College At 5 yo?
If teaching little Katie from preschool through high school scares the courage out of you, then concentrate on today. Today, she needs to learn her alphabet and you can do that. Perhaps, you are starting this adventure a few years into grade school, no problem, you are fully capable of teaching the basics and home school curriculum is designed to assist you in teaching.
Even if your venture is beginning with a high schooler, learning is a step-by-step process so all you really need are the proper tools to take you through each step. Remember, that not long ago in history, children learned at the hips of their fathers and mothers. The idea that strangers with degrees trump moms and dads in the ability to disseminate knowledge is a relatively new one.
Crawl Before You Walk
And just as children learn to crawl before they walk, so too your journey into educating your child will be a building process. Don’t worry about how you are going to teach your daughter trigonometry while she’s still in the third grade.
A good friend says she commits to home schooling one year at a time. She reevaluates when her children are graduated from their current grade levels. This plan works well for her because she doesn’t feel trapped. It also leads her to reflect now and again on what is working, or not, in her household.
I have long felt convicted in this vocation to home school. I’ve identified my reasons and answered the How question for myself. God made me a home schooler.
But my calling is my own and you need to seek yours.
A Word to the Wise
Sometimes avoiding discouraging individuals (aka anti-home schoolers) can be impossible, especially if the naysayers were invited to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. In those situations try steering the conversation in some less tense direction, like world politics.
And, if all else fails, when they ask how you’re going to teach your own kids, tell them home schooling is your vocation. In my experience, continuing interrogations generally stop when I tell people that God made me do it!