In an effort to tackle at least part of what has come up in the open thread below, I’ll address one of the most frequently brought up topics: Homeschooling. I hear from people all the time about homeschooling. They want to know: what is my homeschool philosophy, what curriculum do I use, how do I do it, why do I do it, and do I think they should do it too?
Well, geesh. I don’t often write about homeschooling because when it comes right down to it, I’m a bit of a reluctant spokesperson. But now, since it is the start of a new school year, and since I am crazy enough to say things that might alienate me from people on both sides of a hot topic, I’ll share with you the whole truth of my thoughts about homeschooling.
I love homeschooling. And I hate homeschooling.
— I love that I can give each of my children specialized, personalized education that meets them where they are and is flexible and adjustable as their needs change.
— But I hate the burden of being responsible for my children’s educations. I hate lying awake in the middle of the night sometimes quite certain that I have failed to meet an 8 year old’s needs for map skills or Latin flashcards.
— I love that I am truly connected to all of my children — even the older ones — and that their father and I are the first people they come to with questions or problems, big or small.
— But I hate that my kids aren’t answerable to any adult who is not a parent for their schoolwork — a simple fact that I know motivated me as a young student.
— I love that our daily schedule is built around our family’s needs and preferences and does not revolve around an outside institution.
— But I hate giving up the long stretches of quiet I know I could have in my days to write, to read, to scrub a toilet, to just breathe, if only I would send my kids to school.
— I love that my younger children truly know and love their older brothers and sisters and that the none of my big kids considers himself “too cool” to accommodate a 5 year old or entertain a toddler.
— But I hate that my littlest ones don’t get as many stories read aloud to them by their mother as my oldest ones did at their age.
— I love that my kids are spared the negative influences of peer pressure, materialism, and just plain cruelty that permeates so many schools’ social structures.
— But I hate the burned out, never-done feeling that threatens to overwhelm me some mornings as 8 children accost me with grammatical crises, algebraic emergencies, geographic quandaries, and a desperate need for apple juice all at the same time.
Since so many homeschoolers must continually defend and explain our decisions, it can be tempting to sugarcoat the entire experience — at least in public. We are so busy trying to sell homeschooling all the time, that we don’t dare to admit any of its shortcomings. But I don’t think we do anyone any favors by failing to admit that homeschooling is sometimes an enormous sacrifice or by pretending it’s an ideal for every family.
Homeschooling is not perfect. It is an awfully hard commitment to make and to keep on making. And yet I always find my reluctant self admitting that it is the right one for me, for now, for one more year.
Late to the party, but I just ha to say thank you, Danielle, for writing this. There are so many moms out there who are just plain militant about homeschooling, with no room for any other considerations. We homeschool, and I have the exact same love/hate relationship. Every year we make the decision, and so far we are still homeschooling, but eventually we may just end up sending them to school. A wonderful Catholic school, but even then some folks feel compelled to criticise.
We all need to support one another in our decisions. This is not a moral issue, after all. And I think it’s great to be able to discuss concerns in this type of environment.
Read Anonymous’ response to Sue. She says it very clearly and consisely.
I want to add one note here. All of my children went to Catholic School, but were considered "different" than a lot of the other kids. They were not socially "behind", they were just raised to have different values than the other children. It’s fine for kids to be different, that is what makes each and every one of us unique. Just some more food for thought.
If anyone is getting tired of my comments let me know LOL. I know I have added a lot of comments here. I guess I feel very passionate about this subject.
Every year, for the past 12 years, I get drug nearly kicking and crying into the school year. I have no time for myself, I’m tired, I’m stressed about making sure all of the bases are covered. But…my kids love to homeschool! And if I give myself time to not be such a grown up, I love it too! We’ve a combined group now (3 homeschooling and 3 in conventional schools) and it works for us. That is the key–what works for your family–not what is everyone else doing.
God bless everyone in school everywhere this year!!
I read Anonymous’ response to Sue and think that those behaviors are not homeschool specific (as I think others have already said). I was -exactly- like that and went to public school my whole life. Perhaps there’s an effect where people who didn’t fit into the mold at public school are more likely to homeschool their own children, and children of such people are more likely to exhibit these behaviors?
I think it puts homeschoolers on the defensive when such behaviors are attributed to homeschooling, because they are definitely not because of homeschooling itself.
Sorry, the anonymous below is me.
Kim F. says
Thank you Danielle for your honesty and frankness. Even though I am very new at this homschooling thing it helps to hear that a veteran shares the same feelings. I thought I had to banish all negative thoughts before I could be an effective teacher to my children. And I struggle with selfish thoughts about having time for myself, especially when all my friends children go to school and then they go to the gym, shopping, out to breakfast, etc. I do not judge any of them for their decisions to send their children to school and I hope they have the same respect for our decision to attempt to homeschool. And I have to say that they all have wonderful, well-behaved children. I think (just like the question of family size) that schooling is just another thing we all need to pray about for guidance and do what’s best for our children at that time. And to all you teachers out there, the more I look into homeschooling the more I respect what you do! Some days I can’t imagine teaching my own children, let alone a classroom full of other people’s children. Next to being a mother, I think you have the most important job in the world (oh, I hope that didn’t sound too Oprah-ish!)
I think Misty is right. My husband and I do alot of volunteering with kids activities. We have noticed that when a homeschooled kid displays anti-social behavior, everyone points to homeschooling as the cause. When a school kid displays the exact same behavior they are deemed high-maintenance, energetic, has ants in the pants,etc. I have never heard anyone blame the behavior on going to school. Alot of people attach all sorts of issues to homeschooling whether they belong there or not.
I appreciate your honesty, Danielle. I agree with the commenters who say homeschooling is often sugar-coated. I wonder, though, if a lot of the sugar-coating is a reaction to society’s negative conception of homeschooling.
I just have one child so far, a 3-year-old, but we are 99% sure we are sending her and any future children we have to public school. Quite frankly, Catholic school is way too expensive, especially if we ever expect to be able to have me stay home or work part time. (I work full-time now). And homeschooling, to be blunt, sounds awful to me. I know it works for a lot of people, and if it does, more power to ya. I absolutely believe people have a right to homeschool, and I certainly think homeschooled kids can turn out happy and well-adjusted. I just don’t have it in me to do it, as introverted and scatterbrained as I am. I think trained teachers can do a much better job than I could. Plus, my daughter is very extroverted and I think she needs a lot of interaction with other kids. She loves her preschool. (She’ll say “want to go to preschool!” on Saturdays).
I think fears about public schools are often overblown. My husband and I both attended public schools through college, and neither of us ever left the faith, because we had good formation from our parents and CCD classes. Plus we live in an area with great public schools. What matters is that you have a solid home life and give your kids a good foundation in the faith through your example. We are definitely sending our kids to CCD through senior year of high school – no quitting after 8th grade confirmation!
I wish this were a chat room–I have tons of things I’d love to discuss. Can someone answer some questions for me?
To homeschooles: 1. How many hours per day do you spend formally schooling?
2. How much of that time do you spend with explanation/instructions, and how much time do the children work independently?
3. Do you ever get "behind?" (enough to be truly concerned) and how do you catch up?
4. Do you buy a curriculum or make up your own?
5. What is the biggest advantage?
6. Is there anything that would make you quit?
To parents who were homeschooled as children:
1. How did you adjust when you went on to college (I know from various studies that homeschooled children are ahead academically–how was the social adjustment)?
2. If you were homeschooled and do not homeschool your children, why not?
To parents of Catholic school children:
1. Assuming you put your children in Catholic school so that they could learn their faith, do they?
2. What is the biggest advantage over public school?
3. Is there any area in which you are disappointed with your Catholic school?
To public school parents:
1. Do your children get their religious ed through the CCD program at church, or at home? Or both?
2. If you use the church’s program, is it sufficient?
3. If you teach religious ed at home, do you do this formally or informally? If formally, do you schedule time each week? How much time?
I could go on and on . . .sorry this is so long. Thanks for your help.
Sorry–just one more, I promise.
If you have a child with a learning disability, have you found homeschooling, public school, or Catholic school the best for coping with the disability?
I’ve been reading the comments with interest. Danielle, Amen!
Although my husband has taken over the vast majority of the teaching responsibilities at home and I am now working, I definitely relate to the love/hate relationship with homeschooling.
The only thing I would add is that there are really no guarantees in life. We can do our best, pray for grace, and ask God’s protection of our children, but ultimately they will eventually make bad decisions or decisions we would not want them to make. My prayer is that they will make many more positive decisions and remember that God loves them and wants them to always make educated, loving decisions about their lives and their dealings with the people they meet. We can only do our best and trust they will follow God’s plan for their lives.
That thought keeps me awake at night, but it reminds me to be humble in the face of an uncontrollable world.
When I became a homeschooling parent, I thought that my children would be better behaved, more thoughtful than other children, more considerate to one another at home, more generous with accepting household tasks, and rarely gripe about their schoolwork or be lazy about it. Boy, was I given an education. Despite mine and my husband’s efforts after 7 years of homeschooling, we still have to remind them to do their chores, still have to discipline them because one child wants to have her way at the expense of her sisters, and we still have to ask for help bringing groceries in the house or taking care of the toddler. As hard as we’ve tried to form them, they are still resistant at times….they still act like children.
All I can say is that we’re still trying and still striving to raise good kids with our Lord’s help. I think that’s what God asks of all of us no matter what educational decision we make for our kids.
Anonymous 8/31/07 11:34 AM
I read Anonymous’ response to Sue and think that those behaviors are not homeschool specific
I agree with you Anonymous! Over the years in my teaching career I have seen every behavior imaginable. (Much to my dismay at times LOL!) What a mix of personalities there is in this world, that what makes it go round and round!
Mary B says
1. How many hours per day do you spend formally schooling? Its different every year for every kid. Our form to our school deparment says they will have the equivalent of 900/990 hours required for public schools. I save time not having to pass out books, pass out paper, give 20 kids a turn…. but I lose time in other places. I equate it to nursing. "They" say nurse evry 2 hours for 10mins per side. But really you should watch the baby for signs of hunger/satisfaction.
2. How much of that time do you spend with explanation/instructions, and how much time do the children work independently? Whatever it takes that year. I have a son who needs only 10 mins a week of my time for math while his siter needed the full 45 mins alone with mom saxon program. If God called you to it He will also Do it. Paraphrase of 1Thessolonians.
3. Do you ever get "behind?" (enough to be truly concerned) and how do you catch up? I try not to think of it as behind. If we take time off for a legitimate need, if all the toys in the house could be constued as learning opportunities, if they can read and I own books then its school.
4. Do you buy a curriculum or make up your own? Yes, Done both. Buying a curiculum is great when you are new, don’t know what you want, don’t have time to plan, want to see a plan before you make one, have to convince your husband etc.
Making your own is great for cutting wasted time and dealing with children of multiple grades (all kids study egypt at once but assignments are differnt levels) I also have different learning styles in the house.
5. What is the biggest advantage? Doing what God called me to do, being close to my kids, being here for my teens who may need me at odd times and ways, and being with them through so many phases taht I’ve taught myself child development.
6. Is there anything that would make you quit? Absolutely. My big kids went to a Catholic school and then the public high school because God wanted them there. there were parts of it I hated: They don’t understand my oppostition to Gay marraige and other liberal stances taught at the school. Parts I loved, certain friends and teachers.
But the number one thing that would make me quit would be not having my husbands support. I think I could even teach them if I were widowed (on my mind as several women in our group have been widowed) But if he didn’t support it we would fail.
To public school parents:
1. Do your children get their religious ed through the CCD program at church, or at home? Or both?
We do both. I have the younger children enrolled in our parish’s CCD program through First Communion. After that, I put together a small group of my children’s friends and I organize a "co-op" with the parent’s of the children. We use the materials (books and teacher’s manual) from our parish CCD and we also participate in extra-curricular activities (field trips) and we go to the Opening Mass, Advent, Lent (Penance)and Closing Masses at the Church with the other CCD students.
2. If you use the church’s program, is it sufficient? Yes and no. We supplement with prayer cards, field trips, guest speakers (my brother is a priest!) and service work (collecting food for Christmas for food pantry), etc.
3. If you teach religious ed at home, do you do this formally or informally? If formally, do you schedule time each week? How much time?
For my son’s class (6th grade) we meet alternate Sunday evenings from September until May. For my daughter’s class (4th grade) we meet alternative Mondays from September through May.
"Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those BRAVE MOTHERS who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves. In living out their mission these HEROIC WOMEN do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete…WE THANK YOU, HEROIC MOTHERS FOR YOUR INVINCIBLE LOVE! WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTREPID TRUST IN GOD AND IN HIS LOVE. WE THANK YOU FOR THE SACRIFICE OF YOUR LIFE…In the Paschal Mystery, CHRIST RESTORES TO YOU THE GIFT YOU GAVE HIM. Indeed, He has the power to give you back the life you gave to Him as an offering…" John Paul II, Humanae Vitae "The Gospel of Life"
I think that says it all, ladies.
Mine are too young so no decisions being made immediately in our home. Both myself and my husband were completely public school educated. In my case it was a great thing because of how introverted I am, I suffer from social anxiety disorder and by being put into situations in which I had to interact with others who were different from me, helped me learn how to defend myself and my beliefs as well as gain confidence in my abilities.
My first personal experience with home-schooling came when my brother’s best friend (and our next door neighbor) was removed from public school for behavioral issues (his older two brothers continued in public school) and homeschooled for a year. He often refers to this year as the "painful" year as he missed his friends greatly. He accepts though that it was necessary to help him get on track and returned to public school the following year. He is now a firefighter and dad of two and a wonderful man.
As a teenager, I encountered a group of girls in a ballet class who were homeschooled. One of them exhibited behaviors that I thought were as a result of abuse. When I first met her, she did not make eye contact with anyone and barely spoke when spoken to. The whole homeschool issue never entered my or anyone else’s mind because their were other girls in the class homeschooled who were on all accounts "normal" teenagers. The woman who managed the dance studio, also noticed this behavior and, as a former social worker, also thought there might be abuse going on and referred the family for counseling. As it turned out, this was the first socialization this girl had had with people outside of her very small homeschooling group and without her parents. She was abnormally shy and the situation had truly overwhelmed her. Because her parents had believed that homeschooling was protecting her from the world’s influences (they were not Catholic, but very religious Presbyterians) they did not realize that in her case they were nurturing a natural anti-social tendency. In addition to therapy, they also decided to have her enroll in other activities outside of her homeschooling group to try and combat her tendencies. She was an extreme example but brings me to my point.
I have found that the happiest families, whether homeschooled, public schooled or Catholic schooled are families that have respected the individual needs of their children. This family didn’t stop homeschooling but they recognized a very fundamental need in their daughter to be exposed to outside influences and not be frightened by them.
A co-worker of mine recently shared that he and his wife made the difficult decision last year to continue homeschooling three of their children while sending one son to public school who has a profound learning disability. His wife had tried homeschooling this one son only to find out that she was unable to teach him in an effective way. She also found that her other children’s education was being affected by this. She simply told her husband that she was not the right "academic" teacher for their son. He excelled in public school with a teacher that understands his disability and how to teach someone with it. Their whole family seems happier now. They did receive quite a bit of ostracizing from some of the others in their homeschooling circle, initially, but they realized that the opinions of some could not overpower doing what was right for their family.
I’m not going to speculate on what decision our family will make when the time comes. I feel it is a deeply personal and to an extent private decision, all I know is that through prayer and discernment we will make the best decision for our children individually and our family as a whole.
Let me start by saying GREAT TOPIC Danielle.
I had a love het relationship with homeschooling, and public school. I totally understand and relate to your list.
To homeschooles: 1. How many hours per day do you spend formally schooling? When we home schooled we officially spent from 9am -1pm in school and the afternoons were for enrichment activities and just being kids.( I home schooled for three years while my oldest was in 4th – 6th and the youngest in 3rd – 5th)
2. How much of that time do you spend with explanation/instructions, and how much time do the children work independently? This really depended on what we were studying that day. SOme days I felt like I was speaking non stop. Other days I did not talk at all.
3. Do you ever get "behind?" (enough to be truly concerned) and how do you catch up? Always! I always tried to have fridays for the kids to get caught up every week.
4. Do you buy a curriculum or make up your own? I used a charter school so we bought curriculum through them but I also made our own.
5. What is the biggest advantage? Being with your kids and seeing them get excited over a subject or topic.
6. Is there anything that would make you quit? My kids actually surpassed what I could teach them and we did at that time quit.
To public school parents:
1. Do your children get their religious ed through the CCD program at church, or at home? Or both? Both, Mine are getting ready for Confirmation and I am not sure I like what happens when they get to this age. The Church seems to forget about them.
2. If you use the church’s program, is it sufficient? We as a military family have been to different churchs I have taught in every one of them and even was DRE for two years at one. I am very discouraged by the material that is out there for CCD programs. They are so watered down I always have to supplement when I teach.
3. If you teach religious ed at home, do you do this formally or informally? If formally, do you schedule time each week? How much time? In formally.
Have you tried the Faith and Life series? I taught Catholic School religion for five years and CCD for three and used the Faith and Life Series for all of my religion classes. It is not watered down AT ALL and is excellent!!!
Red Cardigan says
I respect Danielle’s honesty, here, and that of others, but I’ve got to be honest, too.
I love homeschooling. I really, really do.
That doesn’t mean there are never challenges or bad days, but I honestly can’t even contemplate *not* homeschooling.
I am not sure the of the direction of your post. Do you think John Paul II was directing that to all mothers or only to those who homeschool? Maybe I misunderstood your purpose. Could you explain?
I am a teacher and I loved homeschooling my five children!(ages 2-9) I really felt called to homeschool…almost like a vocation within a vocation. I did so for four years and I loved it. But then I started feeling a lack of peace about homeschooling and I wasn’t sure why. So I prayed, talked to my husband, changed curriculums ect. Through a lot of prayer and discernment we discovered God was calling us to send our children to the nearest Catholic School! I was really sad, worried, disappointed about not homeschooling anymore, but felt that if God was calling us to send them we needed to listen. When they started school I was filled with such an amazing sense of peace. Not just because the house was quieter, but because I knew that we were doing what God wanted our family to do. Over the next few months we saw a lot of good fruit from our choice. Sending them has not solved all of our problems, but I believe that now we are carrying the cross He wants us to carry. The children are doing really well in school. I have only seen positive changes in myself and the kids. God is so good that he even provided the money for the tuition in a miraculous way! (I am a stay at home mom on a tight budget)
God has a beautiful plan for each family! That may mean homeschooling, Catholic school, or public school.(I do not believe that one is better than the other) I know that being open to His will in our lives is what will make a person truly happy and what is best for our children. Through prayer each family can discern what God is calling them to do!
What an honest post! I haven’t read all the comments yet. But I agree with something I read below, I can’t imagine *not* homeschooling anymore. I really feel at peace about it and believe it is the best thing we can do for our kids("we" as in my family, not "we" as in everyone. :)). I really do love it. That all being said, I do feel stressed out and burned out sometimes, and I worry that my youngest doesn’t get near as much of Mom as my oldest did. But he does get a whole lot that my oldest did not. He gets the daily company of his sister and cousin and he gets to learn an amazing amount just by being in our homeschool. But I agree with Danielle, that in an effort to defend our position to homeschool, we often do paint a rosy picture and are reluctant to talk about the fact that homeschooling can be really hard work too.
I love the unhurried days. I’ve always dreaded spending my day in a car, arguing every morning over wardrobe, getting calls from teachers telling me that my daughter talks too much…Hey! I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to! A relief. We have a routine, but there’s no harried morning, no scrambling. Somehow, everyone’s just there at 8:30 with their pencils sharpened, prayers said, teeth brushed.
I hate the sole responsibility thing, the agonizing, the second-guessing, the feelings of inadequacy, and of course the worry about socializing (a rapidly fading worry): but that’s mine anyway, even if I send them to school. If I delegate my primary responsibility, i.e. entrust my children to a teacher, I’m still responsible.
I will have to try to find it and see if the DRE will use it. His current plan is to have different people come in and teach 4 lessons and a certain topic. I am not sure if that will prepare the kids for Confirmation. I was realy sad last year teaching the 1st year Confirmation class. I had 25 kids and half had attended Catholic School and Mass only during school/CCD time. So I spent alot of time trying to teach them what they should have already learned. My own Daughter was in the class and was as she put it "Bored" because I had already taught what I was teaching them.
I agree with Red Cardigan — there are definitely difficult days but I can’t imagine not homeschooling. I love it! My oldest is 6 and in first grade so this is officially only our second year. My second daughter, 4 years old, has severe articulation problems with her speech. I had her tested at the local school district to see what sort of program they could offer her. I felt that it was inadequate for her so I enrolled her in a graduate program at a local university. My point is that we have to choose what’s right for each child at each stage of their lives. She can’t wait to "do school" with me at home; I plan to after a year of speech therapy. My youngest, 2 years old, also wants to be a part of doing school like her older sister. It’s just such a joy to watch them learn and know that I played a huge part of that. I can’t imagine sending them to school every day. I respect mothers and fathers who choose to go that route. I just know that *right now* that’s not the right choice for us.
I speak not from the perspective of a current homeschooler (although I do still teach homeschooled kids once a week). I speak from the perspective of a mom who homeschooled all the way ’til college. Yes, there were moments when I hated it. Most often those were the moments when I was trying to be too tied to workbooks and texts and not seeing the forest for the trees. I loved reading aloud to the kids, and it’s what they remember best and where they learned the most, other than some of the hands on stuff that really wasn’t officially on anyone’s curriculum (like the operation dolls my daughter and her cousin made).
Socialization happened at Sunday School, at 4-H, in the homeschool group activities, at swimming lessons, at Little League, at group riding lessons, you get the picture. There were loads of opportunities to spend time with other kids. One of the interesting things that happened repeatedly was people discovering that my kids were homeschooled after they’d known them for awhile (in a lot of the situations we were in kids came from a variety of towns, so where you went to school wasn’t necessarily evident). Time after time people would say, "but they’re so normal, I never would have guessed that they were homeschooled." I on the other hand could pick out the homeschooled, or previously homeschooled kids fairly easily. It has to do with the way they relate with adults and people not their exact age.
However, I will say, that my kids and most of their homeschooled friends did miss out, to a degree, on some of the very negative socialization that I’ve seen as a teacher in both public and parochial schools. They missed it until they got to college that is. The thing is that by that point they were a whole lot more equipped emotionally to handle it than most kids are at 12. When teaching in parochial school I saw girls absolutely crushed (to the point of withdrawing from the school) by the behavior of the "in crowd" girls. While this was most evident among the girls, I’ve known at least two boys (both of whom had been schooled most of their lives) who were withdrawn from that same parochial school(these incidents happened years apart) and homeschooled because of the treatment they received from other students. Do all parochial schools have those problems? Perhaps not, perhaps it has to do with the emphasis placed on social status and income within the parent group of that school. I honestly don’t know, but I do know that I’ve watched those kids (and others) who were floundering academically who’ve flourished once leaving that school.
I’ve seen the same thing happen in public schools in our area. I was the contact person for our state homeschooling organization for awhile and it was amazing how many parents were reluctantly homeschooling their kids because their experiences in school were so negative. I’m not saying there aren’t great teachers and administrators out there, I’m simply saying that there are plenty of not so great ones as well. It is a naive parent who assumes that all schools are healthy learning environments for every child.
My sister’s kids were educated in public school. For her daughter it was a wonderful experience. Her son didn’t have a particularly positive experience, but would probably have been worse off at home because his personality and his mother’s didn’t mesh for years. Her daughter would have done fine at home. I truly believe that my sister probably put as much time into her kids schooling (with the amount of in school volunteering etc. that she did) as she would have if she’d homeschooled them. I’m not opposed to the concept of public school, but I don’t like the practical reality of most of the public and private schools in our area. My niece and nephew spent the better part of a school year in England and my sister used to wax quite eloquent about the inadequacies of the schools they encountered there. She knew a not so good school when she saw one, even if she didn’t want to do the job herself. My own decision to homeschool came after teaching in public school and watching the way that some of the teachers treated students. My more recent experience teaching in parochial school reinforced that to a large degree, but I was more appalled by the way students treated each other and by the poor catechesis that the children had received.
I know that a lot of parents get worried about subject areas that they aren’t comfortable teaching. Most parents have an adequate store of knowledge to get through junior high, at least if they’re willing to learn (or relearn) a few things along with their kids. As far as high school is concerned, I used to see myself as a coordinator as well as a teacher at that point. One kid took chemistry at community college, both kids took college math classes while seniors in high school, one kid did German with a pastor’s wife, the other took piano from a homeschooling mom whose son I tutored in literature. Homeschooled kids around here have found community college classes much better than high school classes. The other students tend to be older and more serious, the teachers are used to non-traditional learners. It costs more than sending them to public school for individual courses, but they are frequently earning transferable college credit while still high school age, and they generally find the classes better (and less time consuming). I’ve known only a few kids who’ve found taking courses at the local high school to be a good option while I’ve known a lot who’ve really flourished with the combination of community college and homeschool (perhaps with my lit class thrown in alongside). Our homeschool group did co-op classes for awhile and my in-law’s homeschool group is very strong in that area. There are certainly ways to continue homeschooing even when you farm out some of the subjects to other people.
What I used to tell people was that while I believe that the individualized kind of education that a student gets from homeschooling is the ideal that homeschooling is not for every family. It requires sacrifice (both of time and finances), it doesn’t work well for people who are obsessively concerned about the appearance of their house (when people actually live there all day it does get a lived in look), it doesn’t work if both parents don’t want to do it, it doesn’t generally work if both parents are trying to maintain careers, it doesn’t work if a husband is attempting to force it on an unwilling wife. It can work for parents of many children, for people on tight incomes, for self-employed people,for mothers who work part-time, for widows, for people with chronic illnesses, for people who don’t have college educations,for families in the midst of a divorce, for families with only one child, for families whose kids have previously been in school, for children whose mothers are allergic to math or who don’t want to have pet rodents. In short a lot of the things that people think make it not an option don’t keep a lot of people with those particular situations still do it.
What I would say is that everyone needs to really look at what the realities are in their situation. What are the schools in your area really like. Don’t just look at the kindergarten. Talk with the people who’ve moved their kids out of your parochial school or your public school and find out why. Maybe their reasons will give you a different picture than the rosy one painted by the staff. Talk to the parents and kids who loved the school, maybe you will find that you’d love it as well. Talk with homeschooling families in your area to find out what the possibilities are, and what the difficulties are. Find out what the support network is.
For current homeschooling families my advice would be to continue as long as you love it more than you hate it. If it’s becoming too much of a source of dissension in your family and there are other options (even if it’s simply getting a tutor for one kid for some subjects) than consider making some changes. The one piece of additional advice I would give is this: it is very difficult to move a child back into school after ninth grade. Schools often will not accept your child’s homeschool learning for credits towards graduation. By enrolling your child in homeschool for 9th grade you may in effect be committing to homeschool them for all of high school or forcing them to repeat a grade. You may be able to tap into the school for courses, you may be able to use community college for most of their academics, but at the end of the day they will probably not be considered to have completed high school by the schools and will need some other form of documentation. We have friends who’ve used Clonlara school to obtain a diploma for their kids (but you need to enroll with them by the end of tenth grade), and their are other families who’ve simply gone the GED route (that’s what we did). Interestingly, I know of a couple of kids who took so many college classes in high school that they never even needed to take SATs they simply transitioned right into full-time students at the college they took the courses in when they were in high school. My own two (with GED’s in hand) earned significant scholarships to our state university.
Special needs present special problems, admittedly. It’s important to note, however, that public schools don’t always do a better job with special needs kids. Late readers frequently do far better at home than in public school, simply because at home the social stigma of not reading at say age 9 is not the problem that it is in the public school classroom. Schools may try really hard to prevent stigmatizing, but the kids all know who gets special reading help and it can impact on how the kids feel about reading. When it comes to children with more profound needs (such as autistic kids) I think that individual families have to make their own best call. There may well be some excellent programs out there.
One more personal note:
my in-laws are currently homeschooling the daughter they adopted from China. She’s blind and was in an orphanage until the age of 9. Englsh is, naturally enough, her second language, yet she is now (at age 12) reading Braille in English at about a 9th grade level. Neither my brother-in-law nor his wife knew Braille or Chinese prior to the adoption. They’ve learned Braille (but not Chinese) as they’ve taught her. They’ve had some help with adaptive skills, but have used their own creativity as much. My homeschooled older niece taught herself Chinese before the adoption and did most of the translating for the family in the early days. My blind niece can roller blade, ride a scooter, ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow, bowl,ice skate, garden, and swab the decks of a boat. She can go into a new house and be able to find her way around within a couple of hours. Putting her in a special class for blind kids would be very unlkely to help her adapt nearly as much as life in their family has. Watching their situation has made me more convinced than ever of the value of homeschool for all kinds of kids.
Oh and by the way, we live in a rural area and my in-laws live in the Bronx. We couldn’t live in two more diverse situations, yet our approach to homeschooling had a lot of similarities, even if the details were very different. My kids learned to raise sheep,deliver lambs, can vegetables, bake bread,do woodworking and spin wool. Their kids learned to write music, build trebochets, make sushi, buy fruit from a vendor whose English was marginal, and speak Chinese. They all learned the importance of loving God and living a chaste life. They all read Tolkien, learned logical thinking, and appreciated extended family.
As a teacher I’ve had the opportunity to teach in public school, as a teaching assistant at a university, in parochial school, as a parent of my own homeschooled kids, and now as the teacher of small groups of homeschoolers. By far and away teaching homeschooled kids (both my own and others) has been my most rewarding teaching experience. I have friendships with people who are now in their twenties simply because they were my students. They continue to see me as a mentor. I never had a relationship with any teacher that is like the relationships these young people and young adults have with me. I can be friends with them and with their parents as well. I treasure the fact that these families have allowed me to be part of their homeschool journey, and I hope that those of you who are homeschooling will find similar mentors for your children.
Oh as far as time for yourself is concerned. I used to get it in the bathtub when my husband was home in the evening or by dropping the kids off with grandma and grampa for a few hours (grampa taught the kids to play poker and cribbage and about World War II, grandma provided maps and tracing paper for my geography addicted son). However, I would remind you that no matter how big your family, eventually they will grow up and you will have more time to yourself than you even want. You won’t say in your seventies, "I wish I spent more time to myself and less time with the kids." These are fleeting years, even when they seem endless.
Teresa G says
I just wanted to point out that the quote Mary shared from Pope John Paul II is one of my favorite quotes about embracing motherhood in all it’s glories and all it’s sacrifices. No matter how we educate our children, the Holy Father was honoring ALL Christian mothers for their daily heroism.
I noticed she referenced the quote from The Gospel of Life, and then wrote "Humane Vitae". The Gospel of Life is actually the encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae", and the quote is from number 86. A significant part of that quote was actually the pope quoting himself (heh heh) from a homily he gave in 1994 at the beatification of 3 saints, including St. Gianna Beretta Molla, one of my favorite saints. It’s pretty cool to be so well written and spoken that you can quote your own works as JPII did!
I agree that many of us home schooling mothers paint a rosy picture of what home schooling is like to the public. I do love it, for all the reasons you listed and more, but I hate it too. I have slightly different reasons for hating it but they are there all the same. I hate that when my teens are moody, I am always the bad guy. I hate that I lie awake at night, not worrying so much if I have taught them everything they need to know, but how we are going to pay for the next stack of books and how much I’d rather have a new couch! I hate that planning lessons is a whole lot more fun for me than actually following through with them. I hate that not only do I have to teach (and I do only little of that, we use a CM approach) but I have to still clean and cook and do laundry!
Anyway, you get the idea. Thanks for a heartfelt and honest post about home schooling! I’m looking forward to reading more!
Mary K says
I am looking at this from the perspective of a mother of eight children who has homeschooled for 15 years. I also have the unique perspective of having half of my children now over 18 and "out in the real world." I chose homeschooling for one main reason. The socialization. Ha! Unlike some of you, I actually DO see a problem with school, per se. I don’t think a classroom full of same-aged peers IS the best place to learn. Read some of John Taylor Gatto’s writings as he says it better than I do. School is NOT the best place to learn and methods of teaching employed in classrooms are not necessarily the best ways to learn for each individual child and their specific learning styles and needs. Children can and do thrive in school but I believe it is much more difficult for children to figure out who they are in a school setting where the peers decide what to wear, who is cool and what everyone "should" be like. It was precisely this type of "socialization" that bothered me about school. I saw my children change when they began school, and not for the better. Siblings who were friends and playmates became enemies, voracious reading just for fun became an assignment to struggle through, things like having the right clothes and carrying the right bookbag started to take an unreasonable importance when they hadn’t mattered before. Some of you with children in schol can convince yourself this is "normal" and perhaps even imperative for your children in order for them to become adults in their own right. I beg to disagree. I have teens that don’t resemble their cousins or peers in the least in the style of dress or their actions. They very well might stick out like a sore thumb but I like it that way. You might say I stick out like a sore thumb myself in that I have a troop of little children following me everywhere I go, used to have a baby in a backpack for many years (my youngest is 4, I’ve retired the backpack) and I wore loose shirts or nursing shirts for ease in public breastfeeding. Not to say I sat down in the middle of the grocery store and pulled up my shirt to nurse but I was the only woman out and about in public that I ever saw in a nursing shirt, and I rarely saw babies in backpacks or slings. In other words, I didn’t fit in with the norm and my children don’t either, and that’s fine by me. Park in front of a high school in your town and watch the teens come out. Note how they all dress the same, almost a uniform of short, tight shirts, low-slung jeans, tons of make-up. Watch them light up cigarettes, hang on their boyfriends and make out in public, listen to the swear words that so easily come out of their mouths. Of course they are not ALL like that, and of course there might be less of that in a Catholic school, but honestly, the young people who don’t fall into the pressure to be like their peers are having a difficult time not doing so. It takes incredible strength to forge your own path as a teen. I should know, I was the only girl who wore dresses throughout the week in our high school when the popular girls had dubbed Thursday as "dress-up day," (and I only later learned they really meant dress UP day when they flipped their skirts for the benefit of the boys lined up at the lockers!) I yearned to be a good girl, the smart one, the girl my parents could be proud of and I did a pretty good job of it. But I could have done better, it I hadn’t had the constant pressure to be like everyone else, to fit in. I went on to college and as a married mother of little ones attempted to bring some semblance of morality into the discussions in class. This was a state university and there were many, many times when I was the ONLY student questioning gay marriage, abortion, or other topics that came up. (my major was in Psychology and Family Services) Being homeschooled means my children can take the time to forge their own way amidst a supportive environment and cultivate their talents and interests in a way their schooled counterparts don’t have the opportunity to. I admire the parents who are able to support and encourage their children who are in public or Catholic school. I admire the parents who put their foot down and don’t allow their children to dress in suggestive ways even if their peers are allowed to. I admire the parents who spend time at night going over their children’s schoolwork and reading aloud and doing everything they can to make sure their children are getting a good education. As I said before, children can thrive in school and I am sure that parental effort and involvement goes a long way towards that. But my favorite thing about homeschooling is that my children are given an incredible freedom to BE THEMSELVES. Without the peer pressure, they do not experience any of the teen angst our society thinks is normal for teens. My children are learning all the time, and so am I. I think it comes from homeschooling, this idea that the learning never stops. It isn’t relegated to a 8-3 schedule, it is part and parcel of our everyday life. I have had others question me, "How will you teach Chemistry or Algebra?" and I used to worry about things like that. Never mind that I took Chemistry and Algebra in high school, I’ve forgotten it all. It is more the idea that a person cannot learn unless they are taught. My children are learning all they time,not because of me, but in spite of me! This is not to say I don’t have those middle of the night insomniac worries like "What about fractions? We missed learning about fractions!" I have those sleepless nights all the time. But so does my sister whose children are in school, only her worries involve drugs, drinking, smoking, swearimg, early sexual activity. I’d much rather be worried about fractions and decimals.
For those of you wondering how my homeschooled children fared in the real world, my oldest son runs his own thriving business, my oldest daughter is married to a man she met through a penpal ad in a magazine and has two children, going on three, that she plans on homeschooling, my 20 year old is a manager at a local fast-food restaraunt and his 18 year old sister started working there to earn money for a Vet Tech course. When they got jobs as teens they had been exposed to "typical" teen behavior on television and through their cousins so they weren’t totally shocked, but they actually WERE shocked by how prevalent negative behaviors were and are. I like that they are still shocked by swearing and young people their age living together. I want them to remain shocked, like I am. If homeschooling can help them retain a sort of innocence and morality that their peers seem to lose at an early age because of their early exposure to these things in school, then I say hurrah for homeschooling! I am not throwing innocent sheep out to be devoured by lions at age 16. When my fairly isolated stick-out-like-sore thumbs and somewhat shy children enter the workforce they have already been exposed to the world out there through television, avid reading, schooled cousins and acquaintances. They adjust at an age when they already know who they are and have had the freedom to become thier true selves. I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!
And, yes, it IS difficult sometimes, but the end product is well worth it.
Perfectly said Danielle.
My two children, 21 and 12 have both been in Catholic schools right thru college for the oldest. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. They are surrounded in an environment where God is the main focus. They pray in public, they volunteer in the community, they play sports and can pray before the games. I have the luxury of being able to work part-time to pay for their education along with my husband’s income. I have the freedom to volunteer at their school, at church, and in the community.
For me and for my family, Catholic schools work best.
Thank you, Danielle, for your back-to-school post. It has to be really even more stressful for people like you who have even written books about homeschooling. It must be very difficult to have any doubts, or at least to express them, especially since so many families look to your books and magazine articles and blogs for some rah rah yea homeschooling cheer to encourage them.
Thanks for correcting me. Looks like I need to brush up on my Latin!
All mothers, of course!!!
Suzanne D. says
Sometimes the decision to homeschool isn’t based just on what is right for a particular family, but what is right for a particular child.
I never really planned to homeschool, because we are delighted with our parish school. However, when one of my children began struggling in the classroom, I brought him home. Now I homeschool just him (with three other pre-school little ones at home) while two others go to our parish school.
In some ways, this is the worst of both worlds, as I have the stress of hectic school mornings AND the stress of getting through lessons while juggling an infant, toddler and preschooler.
Yet, there is no question that this is the right answer for us right now. My son, who lacked confidence and was sad nearly all the time, now sings as he goes about his day. Homeschooling changed everything for him.
Similarly, my other two are thriving and happy in the parish school, leaving me the one-on-one time that my homeschooler needs right now with his lessons.
My child at home was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. Doctors told me he should be medicated in order to stay in the classroom. How lucky we are that we have this alternative, where he can learn his own way, without drugs or stigmas. He can fidget and move as he needs to, and I can take advantage of good days and ease off on bad ones. And you know what? He is doing much better academically, too.
I am open to all things in the future–returning him to school and/or bringing the others home, according to the ever-changing needs of each child. I’m just grateful we have the choice to make and the ability to do whatever works best.
As an educational theory I think that homeschooling is superior.
But practically it can be very very difficult. I put my 5 year old in kindergarten but I am undecided on if he will go to first grade. His personality seems perfectly suited for the school environment and perfectly ill-suited for the home environment. Even when he is home on weekends he is so agonizingly bored (he is a very go-go-go person) that I am reminded of why he is in school.
My philosophy is I will just play it by ear with all the of children. My 4 year old says he wants to go to school and I might put him in a 3day a week program but for the most part I think he would do better in the homeschool environment so we will see. There is no rule that says you have to give all kids the same education, right?
I just want to say that I am surprised every year to find that we are still homeschooling. It has been 5 years now, and here we are – every year asking God if we are to homeschool or send them (or some of them) to school. I believe that schools are a natural support of the family and a natural part of society, but God is still asking us to homeschool, so here we are. I think that is the key in the discussion about schooling – what does God want for each family and each individual child.
I think about this issue all the time. My children are ages three and one. My husband and I are recent converts and have no catholic family members. Our city has a very orthodox catholic school (among MANY less orthodox catholic schools) run by Dominican nuns where the children go to eucharistic adoration every day and mass every week. All of our close Catholic friends send their children there and those children seem to have remained pure and innocent. We go back and forth with this school and homeschooling- my main cons for school are 1) my children out of my influence for an entire day 2) the hassle of daily homework, lunches, rush, babies in car seats all day, (maybe I idealize but I see more peace in homeschooling)…. the cons for homeschool are 1) not able to do as much preschool enrichment with younger children 2) not getting as plugged in to Catholic life- I want our kids to have a complete catholic worldview and really know Holy nuns and priests and the orthodox faith- and because they won’t see a Catholic faith worked out in our extended family or many of our close friends I would like to utilize our parrish as best I can. It’s SO hard to discern the best from the good. I can certainly see both sides.
Amen to everything you said, Danielle. Yikes! It’s exhausting. And the grandmotherly lady from church who comes once a week (more or less) to occupy my 2 youngest for a couple of hours got an earful this morning as I dragged the nasty-tempered 3yo up the stairs for being rude-rude-rude and the almost 2yo just had to have me while I was teaching that ever-important equivalent fractions lesson to the 2 oldest plus the neighbor kid. Somewhere in there, the 6yo handed me his handwriting assignment and smiled at me before asking to go to the neighbor’s house where THEY were building a wall. All I really wanted to do was turn the TV on and go crawl back in bed at least until I’m out of the first trimester . . . But all the same, the blessings abound, and I really do believe in this!!!
I always seem to be the last one to post on these helpful conversations, and probably no one will read this, but here goes anyway:
we are entering the fourth year of homeschooling, and let me tell you all, I never thought I’d be here. I can completely relate to people who feel they don’t have it in them to homeschool — I DON’T! Yet because we see more positives than negatives, and because the other options are so limited, we continue.
Almost every mom I talk with (and living next door to a playground, plus being active in the larger Catholic community of our metro area, I talk to many) has significant concerns about the schooling option she has chosen for her kids. The ones who send kids to school of any sort are, almost without exception, blown away by the amount of homework that young kids are given. The ones who homeschool relate many of the concerns brought up below. And so I just want to reinforce what others have said —
NO way of schooling is good enough, is ideal.
Raising kids is a huge struggle, and no one method of doing it is going to be the magic bullet. Alas.
My biggest dislike of homeschooling is — me. My vices, bad habits, short temper, lack of discipline. If only my children had a better mother, like the ones who have posted below (and I sincerely mean that), our homeschool would be so much more. I greatly dislike that I cannot keep even reasonable order, and that my every attempt to regulate is derailed by the changing needs/skills of the smallest ones (who deserve to be given space to have changing needs/skills). I moderately dislike that the way I get time to myself is to stay up too late.
My biggest like of homeschooling is the way children are allowed to be children for a little longer, while at the same time growing, taking on responsibility, learning. I like that the materials they use are explicitly, and beautifully, Catholic, untinged by USA Today factoid non-helpful formats. I like that we can go places and really spend time there, for the content, rather than being moved from point A to point B. And I like that the other children we know (there is a huge homeschooling community here) who are taught at home are mostly so modest, charitable, and lacking the sullenness so prevalent elsewhere.
As in every aspect of raising children, the only way we can succeed is to completely throw ourselves on God’s mercy and love. He is faithful. He is mercy itself, joy, peace, wisdom, strength. I pray almost every night that He will guide us as we guide these kids. Some nights, of course, I’m on the computer until midnight and fall asleep without praying. (Sigh. Confession tomorrow…)
I could have written what you wrote. Thanks for an honest commentary on the good and bad in homeschooling!
Some days you DO just want to flag down the big yellow bus…
I could relate to nearly everything you wrote (now that I have two in college and doing well I’m not *quite* as worried about being responsible for my kids education), but what struck me most was the bit about the younger ones not getting as many stories read to them as the older ones. I’ve had to take a long hard look at homeschooling this year, and realize I am suffering from "oldtimers disease’ and I’ve lost some of what we used to have.
now i’m working on getting that back.
I’m starting to understand why "regular teachers" take sabbaticals!
I’ve burned out in my first week, and now I’m finally back to read all these comments because of my foul mood. Must re-center!!!!!
Ok, I feel better. 🙂 Don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread, but wanted to say in regards to some questions about homeschooling special needs kids…I can’t imagine any form of education more appropriate for a special-needs child than homeschooling. When I am frustrated and burned out, I know I have to get over it and move on because there really isn’t much alternative. I have a 5th grader with a language learning disability, otherwise quite intelligent. We started homeschooling her in 1st grade because she was failing, wasn’t learning to read, and the school said they couldn’t do anything about it until she was 2 years behind…in third grade! So, we started homeschooling her halfway through first grade and had her tested privately. Last year in 4th grade when she was evaluated by the psychologist she tested in 7th grade in some subjects and in 2nd grade in others. What would public school do with her now? How would she be challenged in her "good" subjects and prodded along at the appropriate level for the hard ones? Besides, after her experience in first grade, she’d never willingly go back.
My 7yo nephew, who has lived with us for a year now, has severe ADHD, some motor skill and speech delays, and we have been told he has the emotional maturity of a three year old. But his intellect is normal and learns well…if you can get him to sit still long enough. 🙂 He did go to public school for kindergarten and did ok while medicated. He had a very patient teacher, so that was a blessing, but he had a terrible time socially, alternating between bullying other kids to being bullied. He needs lots of social "coaching" to get through social situations. In the end, even his teacher was recommending homeschooling him!
So, there we are, the thoughts that circle in my head when I’m feeling burned out…and in the end, I *do* still want to do this. But it is hard work, and I do need to be reminded why I do this. Thank you all for your great comments!
april manson says
I have 7 children. I live in Hawaii where your favorite show Lost is filmed. I’m aquainted with all of the characters since they live in my neighborhood and their children go to school with my kids. I no longer homeschool, but I did for 9 years. School is not the devil, I have come to realize and to quote Thomas More, "The world is never such a bad place that a good man can’t live in it." My kids are the same wonderful, good Catholics that they were when I homeschooled them and some sense of sanity and order has been attained in my household. My kids don’t go to Catholic or even Christian school, but I know what they’re learning and keep them close to home and we have had zero problems. THe family is the most important thing!