The most important thing about home schooling is
to remember why it has been chosen as the method of imparting knowledge
of God and academics to the children. We want our children to know and
love our Catholic faith. If parents practice the faith in and out of the
home and church, and try to season all things with love, patience, and
firmness, the children will learn to follow the examples set before
them. Marianna Bartold and her husband Tim have home schooled their
children for the past four years. Marianna is the leader for her local
Catholic home school support group. She resides with her family in
Clinton Township, MI.
When many parents start to home school, they use an
outside curriculum source that assists them by sending pre-chosen books
and pre-planned lesson plans. This is an excellent way to begin and
continue home education for many reasons;
Sooner or later, parents begin to toy with the idea
of looking for and choosing books on their own. The reason may be that
parents feel more comfortable with the idea of home schooling after some
experience with it. Perhaps they have discovered the individual learning
styles of their children. It may come down to the simple question of
economics. (It is definitely cheaper to build your own curriculum.)
There are a few things parents should consider when
deciding on whether or not to" strike out on their own," so to
speak.. The list includes (1) the self-confidence of the parents in
their teaching abilities and experiences, (2) the parents' motivation,
(3) how much money is available to spend on books and supplements, (4)
the time parents have available to choose curriculum and plan for
lessons, (S) the ages of the children, (6) the learning strengths and
weaknesses of each child and (7) the parents' willingness to take on all
aspects of the organizational responsibilities and delegation of duties.
Parents' Trust in God
First, parents must realize and remember they have
the continual graces from the Sacrament of Matrimony to use in, among
other things, the upbringing of their children. They have given their
children a life, a name, and a faith. Both parents must know it is their
God-given responsibility to see to the proper education of their
children, no matter which approach they choose to incorporate. Knowing
this, parents will have confidence in themselves because they trust God
to help them.
It is often helpful for parents to write down the
reasons they home school or want to do so. With this list of reasons, in
addition to articles clipped out from daily newspapers, magazines, etc.,
pinned to a bulletin board, they can often be used to reinforce and
strengthen the conviction to home school on difficult days. By adding a
little prayer and offering of the day's tribulations, a family can turn
all their daily duties and studies into merits and graces. (Remember Our
Lady of Fatima's requests to offer the sacrifice of our daily duties.)
Looking for Resources
Next, a careful look at the books already in the
home can reap a nice harvest to be used in the home school. Pile the
books and divide them into grade levels and subject matter, taking into
account each child's strengths and weaknesses. Don't forget storybooks,
picture Bibles, audiocassette learning books, and any learning games
that may be tucked away.
Then the search to supplement the family library
begins. Getting books that the family needs can be challenging and
rewarding. Catholic curriculum providers like Seton and Our Lady of the
Rosary sell some books on an individual basis. Libraries, bookstores,
garage sales, or family and friends who want to get rid of books are
other places to tap into.
Another consideration is going to sources other
than Catholic ones. If parents decide to look into these resources, I
would like to add a word of caution — choose carefully. Many catalogues sell
publications that espouse anti-Catholic ideas and present false
information, especially in many of the popular Language Arts and History
text and workbooks.
On the other hand, there are many resources and
supplements that are not hazardous to either Catholic or Christian
beliefs at all. Some hands-on manipulatives and math helps are a few
examples that come to mind.
Keeping Records on Your Own
After the books have been chosen, the lesson plans
must be planned and written. How one approaches this task depends on
personal taste, the way the parent teaches, and the way the family
approaches time management. Some people write their lesson plans
day-by-day, while others want to do so week-by-week.
A lesson plan book that records all educational
work done is a valuable record to keep. Most book stores or supply
houses carry teacher planning books, as do numerous home school
catalogues. A family can also make their own master planner, subdividing
into week and day plans for each class.
The records need not be extensively detailed, but
they should be kept in a consistent manner. Try to list the books and
then the pages worked from, as well as checking off work as it is
The parent planning the lessons may want to prepare
for each child, one at a time, going through each book for each subject.
Another approach is to go by the subject first, and plan for each
child's lessons on that particular subject. Many do this simply because
the family studies subjects together, according to the ability of each
Taking Each Child Into Account
Children's ages will affect the way a parent
teaches. A family with many preschool children and/or babies in the
home, with only the eldest child being taught, will have a different
schedule than a family with more children who are "officially"
learning and have only one toddler running around.
Further, the abilities of each child must be
considered. Not only must a child's strengths in certain subjects be
emphasized, but the child's weaker or less-favorite areas must be worked
A parent can motivate a child by using his
strengths as encouragement while gently challenging the child's weaker
areas with the child's favorite method of learning.
The Team-Work Approach
Most important, the parents must be willing to take
on more responsibility in organizing their time. This means making the
whole family aware of the schedules, plans, and chores assigned to each
member. Children must realize they are part of the team, too.
This is where some people hit a snag in their home
education. Many parents are reluctant to have their children help in
maintaining the home. They must realize that home schooling is total
education, and they are preparing their children for the day they must
care for their own homes. Nobody is doing children any favors when they
are not expected to take on responsibilities. This is where the husband
can be a great help to his wife who, in most cases, does the actual
teaching. He must back her up when the children balk about doing either
their studies or their chores. Together, husband and wife can work out a
plan to institute in their home.
Because the mother of the family is taking on
greater responsibility when she educates her children at home, her time
becomes even more precious. The family will come to realize that home
schooling is a way of life, which is certainly different than the
lives of many of our contemporaries whose children are not in the home
all day. Consequently, the mother doesn't have time to do all the
household chores, errands, and teaching all in one day. She would be
foolish to try to do so all by herself.
Delegating and Sharing the Work
The family must understand that mothers are the
"keepers of the home" and not the "maids of the
home." Children will not be harmed by dusting lower shelves,
picking up their own dirty laundry and putting it in the hamper, helping
to wash, dry and fold clothes (and the tricky part is putting them
away!), storing away their shoes, setting or clearing the table, etc.
The young ones can be an invaluable help in the home. Let them know it.
Both parents can supervise and work with the
children as they are learning to do chores. Running through on how to do
particular chores, letting the children know we will be inspecting the
results, and informing them they will be doing things over if not done
properly is a great way to start. Many children will try to slip out of
their responsibilities by daydreaming, poking around, taking too long to
do the job, or starting and stopping. Timing them the first time lessons
or chores are assigned, by making a game out of it, is a good way to
find out what they can do when they want to do it! However, it will
undoubtedly happen that the children will try to "shirk the
This is where obedience comes in. Those who will
home school their children from their earliest years may be more
fortunate in this than those who begin home schooling later. Explain to
the children that there is always someone to obey, no matter how old we
become. For example, we parents must obey God through the laws of the
Church. One of those laws is, "Honor thy father and thy
Give the children practice sessions on instant
obedience, like learning to answer immediately when called, while also
stopping what they are doing and walking straight to the parent who
summoned them. Explain, even to the young ones, that no complaining,
back-talk, or questioning will be tolerated. Then begin working on the
studies and the chores again.
It has been my experience that children will
continue to badger a parent, particularly the mother, until they can get
the parent to break down out of sheer exhaustion. That is the beginning
of what I call "Burnout Blvd." Both parents must present a
united front to the children, letting them know that the father
reinforces the mother's stance. Instead of letting the children rule,
make it a policy to reinforce positive attitudes, sunny dispositions,
and quick, properly done work with praise and encouragement. Nip in the
bud any beginning tendencies to disobedience. This can be done by giving
extra chores in addition to those that either should have been done or
were done poorly, or by taking away a toy, favorite ritual, or
privilege. It is an old saying, but a true one, that children want a
semblance of order and discipline.
The Virtue of Charity Really Does Begin in the
Stress to the children that they are practicing
virtues of obedience and charity when they help their mother with the
housework. Teach them to be on the lookout for ways to help their
siblings, too. Just because we are done with our own chores doesn't mean
we can't help someone else with theirs.
Try to schedule everything absolutely vital to the
home life. Do this by making a priority list — things that must be done each day or
week. For some families, scheduling rising times, meals, chores, and
class times helps to keep things running smoothly. Different tricks,
like cooking two dinners every other day so that the extra dinner is put
in the freezer, help give a little breathing room. Or let older children
prepare dinners as the parent puts away clothes, gives the baby a bath,
writes the bills, or attends to other duties. Break times between
classes are great times to give the children "mini-chores" It
lets them stretch and helps keep the house clean.
Another time-saver for dinner is the use of paper
plates for, in my opinion, it saves valuable evening time for more
important things, like praying the family rosary and letting both mother
and children spend time with the father.
Do whatever is necessary to make the chores less of
a chore, the home life less complicated, and the children happy that
they are home schooled. Just don't get caught up so much in the schedule
that it becomes impossible to bend. Some days the schedule must be
thrown away for the day and things allowed to run their course. If
aggravation becomes a matter of course instead of an occasional thing,
something is wrong and adjustments should be made.