by Christine Henderson
Lately there has been a lot of talk on Peanut Butter & Grace’s Facebook page for parents, PB & Grace Parents, about finding the right school environment for kids due to bullying or other issues. Have you considered homeschooling?
I have been homeschooling now for eighteen years and counting, and it has been a blessing for our family. However, I believe that homeschooling is not for everyone or every child. It must be a decision made after careful thought and prayer.
We have let two of our boys attend our local public high school. For one son, it was a perfect fit because he is extremely athletic, and the opportunity for school sports was a great motivator for him to complete his school work. For our other son, it provided academic challenges that he wouldn’t have had at home.
The pros and cons of homeschooling: Differentiating education in a (potentially untidy) home
Homeschooling is a HUGE time commitment if you have children beyond the early elementary grades. First and foremost, you must have the time for it and commitment to it. If you homeschool, you are your child’s teacher, thus teaching must be your top priority during the week. I almost can guarantee that if you decide to homeschool, your house will not be as neat, laundry will pile up more, and dinner will be less fancy. But you will create amazing memories with your children.
When you homeschool you can differentiate your teaching to fit your children’s individual needs. That means focusing on the learning styles of each child and meeting them where they succeed and where they need help with appropriate time and teaching. Frustration with math or learning to read will decrease. Why? Because you can set your child’s curriculum to his or her needs. Is your child struggling with blending sounds? Spend an extra week on that lesson. Long division causing nightmares? Don’t rush through it. Break it down into simpler pieces and spend more time on that task.
Many school classrooms have 20 or more students in them. The teacher must keep her students on task. Some of them will learn slower and some more quickly. Usually, she or he will teach to the “middle-of-the-road” students. This can leave children who are struggling with a subject very frustrated and those who master it quickly, very bored. This is not the teacher’s fault; it is just the way it is. When you are teaching your child, you can gear your lessons to his learning needs.
What if you are homeschooling more than one child? One year I literally had a K-12 school house. It is more challenging the more children you teach, but it is doable. The key is organization. For instance, I explained to my older children a few different assignments that they could complete on their own, and then went to work with my other kids who needed more instructions.
If you have multiple early elementary children, you may have a couple of them coloring or playing a game until you can teach them. Subjects such as history, geography, art, music and religion can be taught to multiple grades at the same time.
Teaching the faith in your homeschool classroom
Being able to teach our children the Catholic faith at home was very important to me and my husband. Some Catholic schools do a marvelous job teaching the faith. Sadly, many do not. And, in both the public and Catholic schools, children are often exposed to issues we’d rather teach at home. Homeschooling has allowed us to decide when, where, and how we wanted to teach the “birds and bees” and issues such as alternative lifestyles. We also then can teach those subjects from a Catholic perspective.
The biggest reward for me with homeschooling is the family time we have spent together. Four of my kids are now in college, but they often still talk about things they did together while homeschooling. One of my favorite advantages with homeschooling is vacation time. Most families are limited to the school district’s vacation schedule. Traveling in the summer can be hot and very crowded. Instead we have always done our vacations in the fall. We love to camp. Quite often the campgrounds have been nearly empty when we show up during the week and we have acres and acres of woods to ourselves.
Resources for more information
Spring is a great time to explore the possibility of homeschooling. Both Catholic and secular homeschooling organizations have conferences and workshops which are great places to begin to discern if homeschooling is right for you and your family. I also highly recommend talking to families who already homeschool. If you don’t know any other families, ask a priest. Often they know of families in your parish who homeschool.
Take your time to discern what is the best schooling situation for your family. Questions or thoughts about this topic? Share them below. I’ll respond as best I can. Here are some other places to look for information:
- A listing of several Catholic homeschooling conferences in the United States: http://www.ihmconference.org
- A Catholic homeschooling conference near Kansas City, MO: http://kccatholichomeschooler.org
- A Catholic homeschooling conference in Western Canada: https://www.facebook.com/WCCHSC
- **Know of other conferences? Please share them in the comment section!
Christine Henderson speaks to audiences of all ages about topics ranging from homeschooling to prayer life and everything in between. She does this through sharing stories about the saints and relating them to the topic of the presentation. To learn more, check out her website, PlayingwiththeSAINTS.com or email her at: [email protected]