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Homeschooling Days

October 18, 2012

I am honored to be a guest blogger at CCC of America. CCC is of course a media staple in our home. My family especially loves the children’s videos. In fact, the St. Nicholas DVD is one of the most watched in our home, and a great addition to my teaching at the parish during the Advent season.
Thank you Lisa for the opportunity today to join the blogging community at CCC.

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Wouldn’t it be great if as I wrote this post I could look out over the laptop screen and see all the toys are where they belong, there are no crumbs on the carpet floor, and the laundry is folded and put away. However, that’s not my life. I don’t meet girlfriends for lunch or pedicures mid-day. I don’t always get my own shower taken before everyone wakes, and sometimes the dishes are still in the sink at bedtime. I must admit that I started this journey as a SAHM of one infant, and at night was able to reflect on all that I’d accomplished; the house was clean, my husband had a hot dinner, the baby may have been bathed several times that day, our one occasional load of laundry had been finished by mid-morning, and I’d even had time to “myself”. How is it that I thought I was so busy?

Now, my days are filled with all the same things I had as a new mom, and yet more than I could have comprehended then (and sometimes more than I can comprehend even now). As a professionally certified teacher, I always imagined my kids at school, me doing some part time job 9-3 mixed with all the great things of raising a family. Well, 9 years later, I do have all of that, but going to school means sitting down at one of the various desks or tables found throughout our home, not driving carpool or walking to the bus stop. I firmly believe God chose homeschooling for our family, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

reading (1280x498)

Not only have I been there for the infant and childhood firsts; watching our infants roll over, coaxing our one-year-olds to walk, teaching our toddlers to climb up and down the stairs (an early must in our home), and slide down the slides, first on their belly then on their bottom, but I’ve also been especially blessed to be there when they learned their alphabet and letter sounds, and started to count and later to add. I wasn’t just a spectator watching or a surprised momma who casually overhead from the driver’s seat a new skill acquired by someone in the backseat. I have been there sharing in the efforts of each of those milestones, encouraging and rejoicing in each triumph. This and so much more is what fills my days now. God truly picked the better route for my life.

Our first daughter (and actually the other two kids to follow) showed early academic successes. It appeared the area schools weren’t accustomed to nurturing her zeal and ability to learn at such an early age. It took me many agonizing months and dozen of promptings by my husband to finally agree to homeschool our Katie at almost age 4. Yes, I might have been a certified teacher, but what did i know about being a mom AND a teacher? Besides, I was a “learning disabilities” teacher, not a “gifted” teacher.

preschool years (1280x498)

We’d been greatly blessed to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville as students and hear Kimberly Hahn speak on homeschooling, witness their family life and of course read her book and various articles on the subject. However I didn’t believe God had given me her gifts. How could I ever do this? Imagine, right?! Of course he hadn’t! He had, however, given me different ones so our domestic church could fill in a different hole within society and our local church. I was indeed called to homeschool, but not school “her” way. I was called to find “our” way together as a family.

katie year by year (1280x498)

I’ve made many mistakes over the years, received some great advice, and clung to things that simply work for us. There are always adjustments to be made in our growing family dynamic, but here are my top 3 rules to live by.

1. Teach the youngest to read early, even if it means giving the older students less focused attention for a time. Why would I do this? In my experience, a good reader is a better student and is capable of more independent work. This means that I can then devote more time to the older ones that have been left on their own more lately. For both of my school-aged children, this has been the single greatest asset in balancing our school day.

michael year by year (1280x498)

2. Don’t be afraid to do it “your” way. There’s a wealth of information and every homeschooling family insists certain things are necessary. Some of them I agree with, some make me feel guilty, and some just aren’t possible or necessary. Once I gave myself the freedom to find “our” way, I was less stressed and we actually accomplished more.

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For my family, we have an established bedtime, but the kids wake on their own and start their day on their own schedule. When the kids are older, middle school/high school, we’ll add waking to an alarm as a new discipline and level of responsibility. For now, I don’t find it necessary. I know they have slept and because they inevitably wake at different times, I get some one-on-one with each of them. This also means that sometimes the first hours of school are in their PJs. If school is about learning, and being in their jammies doesn’t keep them in a state of sleep, I’m not going to use those precious early morning focused and awake hours to dress, make beds, etc.

3. Create Independence at every opportunity. As the mom and teacher, I determine what needs to be completed that day. My kids get to decide the order, with the exception of my personal one-on-one availability. It’s a collaborative effort schooling different grades simultaneously. For my younger ones, the books, papers, activities are in a stack ready when they wake up. I try really hard not to add to it mid-day. This gives them the sense of accomplishment as their pile diminishes throughout the day.

2010-09-23_144 (1280x851)

My 4th grader simply works off a modified day-timer. I’ve marked our family commitments and any classes she’s taking online or out of the house. I will plug her lessons into suggested hours, but it’s ultimately her choice when she does them. Therefore, she simply crosses off the lessons as they’re completed. It’s important to me that they learn to manage their time, and it eliminates many opportunities for emotional battles. I set the expectation and they achieve it, ideally with limited prompting or interference on my part. It’s a process.

On that note, the kids have finished their school work and their chores, so as promised, we are headed to the park for a picnic dinner and some play time.

2012-10-16_069 (1280x852)

Today, I can rejoice in our successes and enjoy some well-deserved play. Tonight, during family night prayers, we will pray for God’s guidance upon tomorrow’s endeavors. After they are in bed, I will embark upon my remaining chores and await my husband’s arrival after a long day at the office. Tomorrow will inevitably hold its own surprises, challenges and wonders. I’m grateful to be a homeschooling mom.

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