Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Random Thoughts on Homeschooling (aka Why We're Homeschooling)

I know there are long-time readers of my blogs that are probably wondering if I am on drugs because of the shocking and surprising news that we chose to homeschool our only child this year.

I also know there are other long-time readers of my blogs who are smugly smiling to themselves, thinking, "I knew it would end up like this. She was headed for homeschooling from the very first instance when she started ripping on homeschoolers."

And both sentiments would be correct.

So, yeah, we're eight months into homeschooling first grade. Are we straight-up on-track? Of course not. See previous post and consider if you would be right where you needed to be if you had the kind of past year we have lived through. Nonetheless, we persist and press onward. Besides, I don't know a single homeschooler who is totally on-track. Wait, yes I do. Those two people totally annoy me.

In a nutshell: It's a mega-trial that I don't mind and sometimes actually enjoy. I'm assuming this is normal.

I have times when I feel super-excited about homeschooling, but just because I said that, don't look for me to get all happy-clappy about it like some blogs out there; for example, the ones that cleverly don't ever show you the ugly side of life, but then offer commentary getting all upset that people might actually gasp! horror! find something critical to say about your very public outlay. (OK, she has really great ideas and I've used her book lists more than once. But for God's sake, please stop making it look so easy and perfect; it's really off-putting to the rest of us. Oh, and stop making apologies for the 0.0000001% of photos in which your daughters are wearing pants because the modesty squad doesn't care and neither does God.)

Am I being mean? Perhaps. But my thoughts about that homeschooling blog somewhat echo the thoughts I have whenever I am at a homeschool event, which is, thankfully, not that often. I made a personal executive decision when we switched to homeschooling that I would not purposely torture myself with the sorts of homeschooling activities and get-togethers that I know will automatically drive me nuts.

That being said, every other Monday I bring Alan to homeschool gym class and every other Monday I look around and wonder lots of things, like:

-Do I belong here, really?
-Seriously? You're wearing that? Have you looked at a calendar? It's 2014, not 1992.
-Note to self: Alan will never come here in mis-matched, dirty clothes. (Although I admit I don't know what it's like to get seven kids out the door, so don't accuse me of being heartless; I acknowledge there are things I can't possibly understand.)
-Wow, Char, are you like the biggest bitch ever for thinking these thoughts?
-Would anyone here talk to me if they knew we were family singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Edge of Glory" on the drive over?

So, OK, the good news about homeschool gym is that other parents - who also happen to be friends - who were also at Alan's school (the one that closed) - are also in attendance. Which means I have people to talk to who I think are "normal," and thus, I don't feel alone and deserted in a sea of modest piousness. I've decided that these folks, including myself, represent "hope" in homeschooling - a second or third generation of homeschooling parents who have moved beyond the Catholic Ghetto mindset. At least that's what I'm betting on.

So, anyway, why did we do it?

A big part of it was Common Core. The Milwaukee Archdiocese has all but officially adopted Common Core and it's bullshit and I don't mind saying so in such harsh language. The more I read about it the more outraged I become at the idiocracy that is our government and educators - and sadly - many, many bishops and archbishops. When Alan's school closed we were left with, basically, two (2) parish schools in the entire archdiocese that we found acceptable and those two schools, while not having completely jumped on-board with Common Core from the onset, made it clear that they couldn't fight it off forever. Our attitude about this was: Wow! We can pay X amount of tuition to get Common Core at the Catholic school alongside watered down Catholicism or we can pay nothing and get Common Core at the public school. Gee, what a difficult decision! Not.

The next deciding factor was that the remaining independent, authentic Catholic schools in the Milwaukee area represented a number of issues for us. The one that we were seriously considering suddenly experienced a problematic situation that made us uncomfortable, alongside never really fully cutting ties with its Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi beginnings. The other school - also problematic in its administration and also way too far to drive out to.

Oh wait. There is a third school. Everyone who attends there goes to the Latin mass or is SSPX. Yeah, I don't think so.

There was also the reality that when Alan would walk into any first grade classroom, public or parochial, he would automatically be ahead of the curve. Sounds like a good thing, right?  My husband and I didn't think so because our own personal experience was that teachers typically teach to the middle. So if you're high-functioning, you tend to get ignored. And we believe that most kids, not knowing any better in a group setting with other kids, will want to go with the herd - performing at a basic, in-the-middle level. We didn't want Alan to lose the great head start he had when he left kindergarten; a kindergarten that had completed Saxon Math Grade 1 and that had him reading at Grade 2 level.

The nail in the coffin was what I experienced and learned last year when Alan attended kindergarten at his now former school. For six months I volunteered to work on re-documenting the school's entire K-8 curriculum, down to each individual textbook, publisher, novel, and workbook. That process opened my eyes to the true nature of a classical, traditional curriculum, especially and including the Catholic part. Once I saw it and started thinking about it, there was no turning back. Alan had been fed caviar, if you will, and there was no way I was going to feed him junk and crap after that.

In many ways, I feel our decision to homeschool smacks of elitism and I occasionally worry about that. Thing is - like all of us, like all of you reading this - we only have one chance with our kids. I'm just not willing to sacrifice Alan as a Common Core guinea pig, even while I feel bad that others have no choice in the matter. Believe me, I have wonderful parent friends who post on Facebook about the horrors of Common Core math assignments that are coming home, but they just don't have the resources or options to do anything about it. I feel for them, but in the end analysis, it doesn't do me any personal good to worry if I'm coming off as elitist to them simply because we decided to get out of the fray.

There are many days where I deeply, deeply regret the decision to homeschool and it has everything to do with the fact that Alan is an only child and nothing to do with academics. Anyone who understands homeschooling and has been around homeschooled children knows that 90% of the time, the anti-homeschool arguments about the kids not being properly socialized are just bunk. However, in our case, it is my number one worry, given that Alan is alone with us almost 100% of the time and he's very aware of it and very lonely. Some days his behavior screams "I need to be with other kids!" and I can't disagree with him. But when I think it through to its logical conclusion, sending him to a school (of any kind) so that he can have approximately 45 to 60 minutes of playtime with other kids in the form of recess seems to miss the mark entirely. More seasoned homeschool mothers have told me it will get easier when Alan is old enough to participate in more activities. Sometimes I think that day can't come soon enough, and then other times I think such advice translates into my endlessly carting him around everywhere and that's something I can wait on.

Right now Alan goes to Tae-Kwon-Do twice a week, and Cub Scouts is on the agenda for next fall. Will hopefully get piano lessons in there sometime soon. We fit in a few "playdates" (gag, I hate that term) with kids from his old school when it works out for everyone involved. Other than that, it's us and Sponge Bob.

When our life is more settled - OK, get ready for this - I want to get to the point where we could go to a morning mass maybe once a week. This possibility has had to cook and evolve for a long time, given that I still cringe at internet goody-goody homeschoolers who gush all over about how they get to mass EVERY DAY! and if you're not doing the same, well then, you're doing something wrong. Turning off what other homeschoolers do, say, and opine is a big struggle for me.

Like when we recently tried - yet again - going to mass at the parish where more than 50% of Milwaukee area Catholic homeschoolers all congregate. Trust me, I'm gonna blog about that someday. Let's just say I walked out - yet again - wondering if I had landed on a foreign planet? Which makes me feel deeply insecure that not only do I decidedly not "fit in" with the rest of these people, but also makes me wonder why I'm so different from them, yet we've all made the same decision to homeschool and we all care deeply about our shared Catholic faith? AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the frumpy modesty memo. AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the missive on the absolute necessity of Latin chant and reciting the St. Michael prayer immediately at the close of mass. (Hey, I'm not saying these things are bad. Hardly. What I'm questioning is why all these folks seem to "get it" and I don't.)

So like most everything else in my life, homeschooling thus far is turning out to be another situation where I'm a loner. Will it stay that way?  Probably, since when people ask me what I really think, I respond with what I really think, and then they don't usually have much interest in me. I recently found this to be true when I was asked by more than one person why I don't go to that parish where all the other homeschoolers go? I gather answers that include descriptions like "uber-pious" don't sit well with others. Ha! Ha? It doesn't matter, really - I've never let other people tell me what to do. Yet every so often my inner humanity cries out to be accepted and understood.

I find planning out curriculum easy, interesting, and something I care deeply about. I have loosely stuck with what the first grade curriculum would have been at Alan's former school. But various Facebook Catholic homeschool discussion groups I belong to have intrigued me in terms of exploring more curriculum options. I'm !gag! excited about an upcoming Catholic homeschool conference, though I admit I could care less about the speakers and just want to go so as to examine curriculum and shop. I was recently in a used book store and got all ecstatic about a large selection of kids' dictionaries and it was at that moment that I knew homeschooling may be for me.

But whether it's really for Alan, I don't know.

He is academically way, way beyond where he needs to be. Example - right now he's a first grader reading at a third grade level. We recently caught him in bed reading FOR HIMSELF the first book in the Narnia series! We were bowled over. But......the socialization thing. He is still so much a young, immature six-year-old boy. One minute he's asking us deep, beyond-his-age questions and the next he's talking baby talk and asking me to play mama/baby cat with him.

And also - I hope someone can talk me through this - I'm really excited to be teaching him about his authentic Catholic faith, but feel I am a lousy example, and thus failing at it. You know, the whole do what I say and not what I do thing. I mean, Lent around here is a joke, as usual. My husband routinely tells me to chill out and just give God what little crumbs I can and be satisfied with that until I am able to do better, but then I do things like go hunting for Lent ideas at blogs like the one I highlighted above, and well, you leave those blogs feeling like a lump of crap. Which begs the question, can a family homeschool in a vacuum?

Again, I assume the fears and joys I'm expressing here are normal for a first-year homeschooler. Especially since I have pretty much went at this alone. I didn't join some moms' discussion/prayer group and blubber out all my little insecurities or post a million insecure questions on some forum. I bought the curriculum and just went at it. Well, I did read a little of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy - which I think(?) I'm totally buying into - but given what's going on in our lives right now, I don't have time to read and learn more. So much for nature walks and narration - the two things I cared the most about are the two things we've done the least.

For now, I look at homeschooling as an experiment. Because that's all it could be at this time. But it's an experiment under OUR control, not under the control of the state, the Federal government, or the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

I plan on continuing next year. (Might as well, since we'll be homeschooling into the summer months and I KNOW I'm not alone on that one,)

I have no plan B if homeschooling doesn't end up being the best choice for our son. Then again, since there's no perfect school and no perfect homeschool, maybe I don't need a plan B. I don't see people with their kids in public school formulating any plan B, so why should I?

Homeschooling is hyper-magnifying our weaknesses as parents and as Catholics. There are times when I feel those are reasons alone to quit. Other times I see these weaknesses as an invitation to change, and can see that homeschooling is so, so much more than academics. Needless to say, the stress of the last year is something that needs to be overcome before I can work on "me." So Alan is being schooled by sinners who, at minimum, are aware of their status as mega-sinners. Tune in next year for a status update.

We do not feel we are superior to anyone who has made any other educational choice for their kids. I mean that sincerely. Although once in awhile I would appreciate an honest assessment by secular types of the obvious problems with educational reforms innovations that are untried, untested, and closely resemble communist ideals. Not to mention some acknowledgment of the dismal social atmosphere that permeates so many schools, with secular and immoral ideologies promoted and accepted all around - sometimes more through the students than the teachers or curriculum.

Family members, as of yet, haven't given us any flack so far, and we don't expect any. Neither, for the most part, have our friends, even while I know some of them have likely talked about our decision behind our backs. The worst we've had to deal with is our new neighbors who are effusive in their support for our town's public schools and who keep reminding us that the grade school Alan would be attending is only three blocks away and it is soo sooo great! We find it amusing that proximity is being used as an argument for attending a school. People know so little about what an education really is. I get in arguments on Facebook about Common Core and many times people just want to defend it because they really, really like the school their kid goes to or the teacher their kid has, and well, then, Common Core must be great! GROAN.

This blog post has been quite self-indulgent, and for this I apologize. My only defense is that I've been offline for so long, it takes awhile to catch up.

I expect some flack for what I've written here and that's OK. I am open to questions, of course.


  1. It sounds to me like you are doing great! I never wanted to homeschool, and yet I've been doing it for close to 30 years, and I didn't even homeschool the first two. I have my last child at home, age 16. She's been like an only child since the age of 10. It would be so nice if there were that perfect child just the right age on our block for her to be friends with, but there isn't. Her parent's are old, and she is alone with us most of the time. I don't know how to solve that problem, but I am convinced that what we are doing is better than the alternative. Even though I am "conservative" I don't dress like the other moms and I am not the huge success in "personal holiness" (but I do try..). Oh well, I don't really care that I don't own any jumpers and did not join the skirt up revolution, or give up fb, or any of the other "stuff" everyone else is doing. But I do like and respect a lot of these women, Just be secure in who you are and what you are doing for Alan and your family. If your track is a little different, that is just fine. Don't let it get to you, I think you are marvelous!

    1. I appreciate your support, truly. Am glad to know I am not the only one homeschooling am only child. It's hard.

  2. I'll have to come back and re-read this, but regarding the Common Core...the diocesan (I know what a dirty word in the Catholic blogosphere!) schools near us have not taken the Common Core in whole. Honestly, they haven't changed that much and we will never see those goofy math problems and I suspect they won't be in public schools much longer either. Remember the Everyday Math craze and how long that lasted until teachers were "supplementing" with old school worksheets and math facts? And now they all seem to be switching over to Singapore. So fads come and go.

    Regardless, I think that homeschooling is the best option as long as the parent is up to it. But the socialization part is a really big deal as well. I admire you taking this on with an only child. I think the people who have really big families are best suited for it in terms of socialization, but on the flip side, would have a hard time providing every possible curriculum option tailored to each child, due to time constraints.

    That's very interesting about the different groups. Around here, if I home schooled, I'm not sure who I would hang out with. There is the borderline sede vacantist Latin Mass folks...no. Then there are the Protestants, who are extremely well-organized, and I guess who might take me in, but not sure how that would go. I don't see any "regular" Catholic homeschool groups. Then there are the secular groups...I would probably end up with them.

    Have you thought about a summer day camp? Maybe a big dose of other kids in the summer would be fun for him.

    Good luck with it all. I've come to the conclusion that almost everyone is just doing the best that they can when it comes to education...picking between a bunch of flawed choices, know what I mean? ~ Catlady

    1. Catlady, it is all flawed, that is truth.

      In summer, Alan lives at VBS and similar activities, so that's a good thing.

      Thanks for putting up with my stereotype struggles. I guess I'm just looking for more personal integration in people and some personal discernment as to how homogenous everyone seems to come off.

  3. People can change, too. I was a skirt/jumper person for many years, but have moved away from that look. Re camps...maybe there are some science camp/children's museum kind of things to look into also. It's possible you'll make happier connections there, along with Alan meeting nice kids whose parents think far enough outside the box to get their kids to camps like that. And this really spoke to me: "...nature walks and narration - the two things I cared the most about are the two things we've done the least." One, don't beat yourself up about it. Two, maybe try to put it on your schedule once a month. (In hindsight, I would set myself up for "failure" because I had stuff like that on my schedule Every. Day. It was impossible to live up to.) Three, even very small doses of good things (like nature walks) are memorable and important.

    My childhood experiences included going for walks and hikes...they are big in my memory, even though I know there weren't many of them, as I had 3 younger siblings close together, and it was just too much for my mom/parents to manage everyone.

  4. OK, I will try to write a coherent response, all the while keeping my freak-out insecurities in-check!
    I tried homeschooling when my oldest was in kindergarten (since he wasn't required by law to be in school anyhow, as he turned 6 after Sept. 1st). I was in a bad place and it was probably a bad idea and so we put him and his younger brother into the local parish school the next year. They both did well. I, not so much. I stressed and stressed and stressed. I tried to ignore all the well-off people (several of whom were very nice). I tried to engage myself and fit in.
    So I felt last summer that we should homeschool again. My SIL has been homschooling for a while. I felt that the local-ish group would be good. I felt that I would no longer have the stress of keeping school clothes organized and there wouldn't be hours of homework in the evenings. I felt that we wouldn't have to deal with the stress of trying to fit in our 40 service hours.
    So here it is, March. I freaked out early on at a "park day" for the local-ish Catholic group. The week earlier, I had gone and met 2 women, both of whom were very nice. The following week, it was practically a big party! Lots of kids, and several ladies in jean skirts (not that there's anything wrong with that), but most importantly, everyone knew each other very well. I haven't seen them since for actual or perceived reasons of my own. I just do not fit in here. My children are way more rowdy than their kids. I felt way under dressed, even though it was in the 80s that day. I see myself as more Catholic than many people, but clearly not Catholic enough for these ladies (they were all nice, but being who I am, I have probably read way too much into a few spoken sentences).
    Then I managed to be free to go for a little walk with 2 other moms and their kids from the county Christian group. One of them was very sweet, but I'm afraid I scared her off when she asked what curriculum I was using (CHC). The other woman was very matter of fact and pretty much and unschooler. I appreciate the resources I get from this group, but I was looking for a co-op situation, which they do not have.
    Here we are, it's March, we're going through our workbooks, but probably doing way too much Lego-playing and netflix-watching. I hide in the house during the days mostly.
    I had a big freak-out the other day about thinking my children would not have any friends ever, since the neighbor kids all go to the local public school, all their old friends live far away, and their mom is basically a depressed recluse! You seem to me, to be doing well. You get Alan out when you can and schedule things for him. And you are there to answer his big questions for his grownup side, but can still be silly for his child side. I read somewhere that address the socialization issue that is brought up so often: in school, children are socialized by other children; at home, they are socialized by adults. I think that children do need to be around other kids near their age, but that is not where they should learn. Being in a private vs a public school doesn't help. My oldest was bullied at the private school. My 6 year old was left out in his public school.

    1. Little Spool, seriously, why aren't we getting together? We are obviously talking about the same homeschool groups.....GMCHE, which I have many issues with, but they are a necessary thing. Either that or the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas Facebook group - also not ideal and also not a representation of reality. REALLY. Let's get together. Soon. Email me at cheekypinkgirl@yahoo.com. We are not so far away - all we do is drive around the metro Milwaukee area anyway. Let's get together and comiserate. This from someone who also gets depressed and hides in the house in her pajamas.

  5. Ok, sorry that was so long and only half of it :/ Here is the rest (sorry for hogging up the comments section):
    Lent around here is non-existent. We mention it here and there. Reading about Lent "activities" makes me feel like crap. Church for us has been hard recently. I can't remember when I last went, though I'm thinking it was when my inlaws were visiting and my husband and I got to go by ourselves. I DID take them to Holy Hill two Fridays ago and we "did the stations" from the bottom (then I felt slight crazy, as we were the only ones around and the stairs were steep and covered in snow, so we had to take the road part way back down).
    What I like best about homeschooling: being home with them, and flexibility (I work part time 2nd shift, which everyone balks at, also, and limits so many group things) in both schedule and what we work on. Last Friday, I packed up after lunch and we went to Madison. We visited the Historical Museum (nice, but not super-exciting for little kids) and the capitol building. My 6 year old loved the capitol... and all we did was wander around up and down all the stairs and sit in some of the senator's chairs.
    I believe that this has gotten way too long and probably full of grammatical errors (and I'm teaching my children!?). In summary, I agree with so much of the feelings you have and that teaching the Catholic faith is hard. My impression is is that converts do that part better. I struggle with where to even start, and then get bogged down and depressed when I read about people who celebrate lots of saints' feast days and baptism days and everything. Then I shut down and read.


  6. About the nature walks/Charlotte Mason: the Christian group I'm in has some ladies who mentioned Ambleside online, which has all of CM teachings for free. I have yet to look at it, probably should do that today. But I like to be outside, which is why I take the kids to the woods frequently :)
    I think that this is where scheduling sort of bogs people down. Everyone wants to get their to-do list done, but I think that part of the draw of homeschooling for me is that it is not uber-necessary to schedule. What I'm saying, I guess, is that if the weather is nice, or you feel the pull, just go outside and explore somewhere (we're very close the Kettle Moraine South here, so we just drive down). Very informal and even if it leaves some things un-done for the day. That one unschooler lady that I met mentioned to me that many homeschoolers are "married to their workbooks", which she offered in explanation as to why all activities are in the afternoons (which I cannot get to because of *gasp* my job).

    1. I love workbooks. I love hiking. The two can totally coexist. Email me.

    2. (emailed, but through my yahoo)

  7. Amethyst Pimlico3/26/14, 5:17 PM

    As for setting a good Catholic example, I'd say you're doing that just by taking Alan's education seriously enough to spend your day on it. He probably doesn't know that now, but he'll realize it later. (They do, eventually, even mine did.) But reading blogs that undercut your confidence is probably a mistake.

    I'm glad you've found someone local to get together with, good luck to both of you.

  8. Yes, hiking and workbooks can co-exist. :) You'll learn so much about your child and yourself. Sure, that alone will and does bring us to our knees. For me, the struggle, well.... I feel confident that since I am pretty lousy at mortifying my will THIS...homeschooling...may be the way God chooses to sanctify me. No education is perfect, but I'd never give up on what I see are the clear benefits for my family in homeschooling. God bless. Wish we could meet.

  9. Char - your thought processes always fascinate me. I love how you seem to be both attracted to and repelled by the same things. You are interesting person - please don't ever change!!!
    Angela M.

  10. I've been haunted by that blog too. I came to a certain kind of peace about it when I realized that she doesn't write much about academics. I naively assumed that her kids were doing all of the arts and crafts stuff and celebrating all of those feast days and going to Mass all of the time and doing a rigorous curriculum. Now (and I'm sorry because this is snarky) I've concluded that they're probably not doing what I would consider to be a rigorous curriculum. They likely prioritize religion at the expense of other subjects. Which is fine and probably very beneficial to her family but it's not exactly the same choice that I would make so I can't compare myself to her.

    Your question about homeschooling in a vacuum is a good one. I am deeply pessimistic about homeschooling. I see it as the best of a bunch of bad choices and I'm very angry that I've been given such bad choices. I'd really love to see the bishops and other official Catholics acknowledge that they've given us bad choices and apologize but I won't hold my breath.

    Maybe our kids will rebuild things and our grandkids will have better.

    My latest obsession is learning about the Jesuit schools. It almost makes me cry that we spend all of this time and effort trying to find the perfect curriculum all by ourselves when it's already been done and then tossed out the window. It was a lightbulb moment for me when I realized that this was not an education that I could provide in my own home. And you know what - no one else is doing it either regardless of what their blog says.

    I highly recommend that Catholic homeschoolers understand what the Jesuits did. In my observation, this leads to some depression because you realize it isn't easily transferred to the home. But the next step is facing reality and realizing what you can do well in your home. Which is, IMHO, providing a good liberal arts education (likely better than the public schools and most Catholic schools) even if it's not really classical.

  11. Congratulations on your decision to homeschool! You're feelings, observations, doubts, fears....alllllll normal!! I'm in my 7th year of homeschooling my kids--currently have 3 in school and 2 littles--and there's never a perfect day, perfect curriculum, perfect homeschool group, perfect mom/teacher...but there is a perfect God who has you perfectly in his grace. Bless you on your journey!! (And we're also listening to pop music--often Duran Duran--on our way to homeschool group, too!)

  12. You have the same concerns that many of us Catholic homeschoolers have. My experience with myself and close friends is that homeschool moms are too hard on themselves. I have been doing it for six years, I started when my oldest was in 6th grade. ( He went to public school.....and for that reason I have been semi-shunned by ridiculous self righteous Catholic hs'ers who think I'm not 'authentic', or whatever) but I digress... Looking back, I think my biggest mistake was trying to make it just like school, I wish I would have done more creative stuff, even though I am not all that creative. I did a fun unit with Beautiful Feet books, where the kids read books like Tree in the Trail, Paddle to the sea, etc. very beautifully illustrated books, and then the kids had huge maps they would color (of a region of the US) with each book. I regret making my homeschool so schoolish, I do go to daily Mass, but only once a week. I have 3 boys, and boys just don't sit still, so one time a week is enough.

    My diocese also blindly accepted Common Core, and it makes me Ill. Our priest even accused a friend of mine for being a conspiracy kook because she had concerns about it. Yes, the same government that is attacking our faith right now, is totally to be trusted with edumacating our kids. Sure, buddy.

    I have a son who is an 'only child', because of the age differences. I think he is lonely,too. It is hard work to do play dates. I just take homeschool one year at a time, because the time might come when I would send him to school, and it probably will be for (gasp) socialization. But we'll see. You aren't worried about anything the rest of us worry about.

    The thing I hate most about homeschooling, is I am a loner, and now I am never alone! Plus,when you send your kid to school, it is a whole lot easier to get the house clean, run errands, etc.

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Char, I think you'll do fine!

    My oldest is in college now (secular community college, gasp--hey, we can afford it. Sort of). My second is finishing high school this year and just got her SAT scores today--mom's proud! Our youngest is a sophomore. Two more years to go!

    Here are some things I wish I'd known when I started:

    1. You can't screw up kindergarten. Or first grade. Or, well, pretty much anything up through fifth, unless you don't teach the child to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and read. Relax, don't worry about Keeping Up with the mythical homeschoolers whose kids are chuckling over Cicero's Orations in Latin in second grade. If they exist, they'll may end up both brilliant and in therapy, or they're those genius types who will go to Harvard at 12 but never learn to operate a washing machine. First through fifth should be fun, easy, and as unschoolish as possible. Alas, I was "married" to the tough curricula idea for Far Too Long.

    2. You do have to start doing a bit more in sixth-through-eighth, but that's just to prepare them for high school. It's best if they are doing decently hard math and writing brief papers in these years, as well as taking the occasional essay test, so they won't be shocked in high school.

    3. If you high school at home--I did, and it's doable!--these are the years when educational bureaucracy creeps in. You do have to keep some records and follow your state's graduation requirements, etc. Your child will have to take some standardized test or other (we went with the SAT because they make things easy for homeschoolers, but rumor has it they're going all Common Core soon, so...). I think of the SAT as a college readiness test, not an "Oh my gosh my kids have to do better than anybody else's so I can prove that the last 12 years weren't One Huge Mistake" test, because the latter is a good recipe for total insanity.

    4. Socialization: yes, it's probably more of an issue for an "only" than for three giggling chatterboxes who have been each other's best friends from birth, but I still felt the need to find outlets for my girls. The homeschool group in our area was nothing but a huge waste of time. We were driving an hour to activities when our girls were little, and our poor girls would stand on the sidelines because everybody else's kids lived in the same neighborhood and played together weekly. I said "Screw this, I didn't decide to homeschool so my kids could be Clique-victimized," and we never looked back. Their best friends are in our church choir; they have cousins in the area; my oldest is doing fine with friends in college and sometimes has to sneak off to the library for some alone-time. My advice: get involved in family activities you want to do, and you'll find friends for Alan among those people. When he's old enough, perhaps a ham radio club? My girls did get their ham licenses to please their dad, but their boy cousins are way more into it, and there seem to be plenty of young boys who are enthusiasts for that sort of activity.

    5. I started with this, but I'll end with it too: Relax! I wish somebody had told me that back when I bought vintage excruciatingly difficult and dry Catholic textbooks when mine were in first grade.

  14. Oh, sheesh, homeschooling mom's post is full of typos. I plead a migraine. I can't spell or type properly when I have one of these. :)

  15. I'm not surprised that you are homeschooling. I think every mother does what is best for their children, whether that be private, public, parochial or homeschooling. I think you are living your dharma and that is a good thing. Alan is lucky to have you as a mom. Bohemian Rhapsody on way to conference - you rock my friend~

  16. The kids and I go Monday to shadow for the day at a homeschool hybrid. I'm just getting more and more frustrated with out parish school and, even though I'm scared of making the change, I know we are not in the right place now. Our kids are looking at Mass and other devotions simply as more chances to get into trouble, even if they themselves are behaving. Something's wrong when your kids are saying that they see no reason to behave in school because everybody just gets punished. I want Catholic formation for them, not Calvinism. In a way, I think God is allowing them to be so distressed to reassure me that we are making the right choice just as the evil one is sowing many doubts as to my ability to school the kids, even in the hybrid setting.

  17. Took me awhile to finally get over here to read this but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your honesty. Yes, I'm in that category that knew you'd go to HS eventually but I will also admit I admire your tenacity of making sure you truly thought and prayed your way through the decision to homeschool and didn't just go with the flow of others.

    And yes, it sucks trying to get 7 kids out the door all at once. I haven't quite lived down the morning when my son, unbeknownst to me, made it to class with his freakin baseball cleats on. Thank God my 12yr old daughter knows how to be discreet in pulling me aside to tell me "Um, mom... he wore his cleats." Yes, the teachers still laugh about it (and I do too because that's just my son. It's all I can do.) But ya know... by the time a mom gets up to this number of kids, she REALLY no longer cares about what others think about her kids dress, for the most part. Some parents are really, really put together with their kids. I'm not one of them. My kids are dressed? In appropriate clothes? The clothes kinda match? Clean? Let's go.

    Anyway... thanks again for writing all this. Your honesty is refreshing.

  18. And I totally agree with what Red Cardigan wrote!

  19. Awesome, awesome, awesome!! Thanks for all the great stuff!! I enjoy your posts and great ideas!!!