Friday, January 11, 2008

Homeschooling...Help Me Understand

Friends, I just don't get the homeschooling concept. For those of you who partake, this is by no means an attack. It's simply an attempt to understand a way-of-life that I find baffling. Up until the last 5-10 years or so, homeschooling was pegged as a fundamentalist, evangelical endeavor. More and more, however, I hear of Catholic families joining the learn-at-home ranks. After perusing several of the Catholic mom blogs, I was amazed by the sheer number of homeschoolers. Really surprised, actually.

I'm a conservative, Catholic, SAHM who strives to raise my children (with my husband of course) in a moral and loving home. We blow it from time to time, we're not perfect parents by any means, but we give it our best shot and keep trying. What's more, we both strongly believe in Catholic education. Both of us attended Catholic grammar and high school. My son is in Kindergarten at our local, parish school and his sister will join him when she begins three-year old pre-school next Fall.

I could compose a really lengthy post on what I perceive to be the downside of providing your children's education yourself, in your own home, day in and day out. But I wouldn't feel any more informed in doing so. So, I'm asking you blogging, Catholic SAHMs to provide me with insight as to what you perceive to be the benefits/downsides of homeschooling your children. And I guess the burning question is why you are not supportive of traditional, parish-based Catholic schooling? After all, Catholic education is still considered by many to be the gold standard. Why has it seemed to lose it's appeal with so many of you?

22 comments:

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Hi Leigh,
I am putting together an answer to your question on my homeschool blog 'Thinking Love, No Twaddle' at www.mum6kids.wordpress.com.
I will link it from WSNS as well.

Give me a day or so-I have to write between children lol.
God bless

Heidi said...

In my case, I have a special needs child. ADHD. Autism Spectrum. ODD. SPD. The Catholic Schools just can not work with this. I would love to send my neuro-typical daughter to a Catholic school (if I could afford one, which is a whole other topic...). For special needs kids, public schools can offer more services but being a military family that moves around a lot, sometimes we live in places that do not have the best public schools (like now.) So I am homeschooling not really by choice. It is what I have to do now. I feel God has called me to this at this point in my life. I did not choose it and I do not love it. It is not long-term (I hope) but if it is, it is. One year at a time, one kid at a time. I think that is the most important thing- look at each child as an individual and see where he or she is at and see what they need and what is available. By the time my kids graduate highschool, they will probably have a few years home with me, a few years at public schools and a few years at private schools. We are about to move and the school I am checking out for my special needs son is a private Baptist school. Am I thrilled about this when there are 4 good Catholic schools in the town we are moving to? No. But this particular school has a great program for special kids.
Oh, one plus is I have to say I am learning a lot with my kids this year, espcially about my faith.
I could tell you a bunch of negatives, but this is my reality right now so I have to focus on the positive. Here are a few more postives: we have not been sick this year at all, no mommy gossip, and no school politics!
Anyway, there is a whole world on the web for Catholic home educators. If you are curious for learning more check out: 4RealLearning Forums (http://real.thenetsmith.com/)
God Bless!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

It's done Leigh. Go see my answer at www.mum6kids.wordpress.com
Hope it at least begins to answer your question
God bless

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Leigh, thanks for visiting my blog and giving your opinion. You've raised a hot topic here :-) I've found that many (most?) home schooling moms believe homeschooling is far and away the very best education you can give your children. I see advantages and disadvantages to both, if and only if you have a good Catholic school option. There a a lot of catholic schools out there that are not really teaching the fullness of the faith.

The biggest advantages I see are family bonding time, (the time you can spend with your kids is just really wonderful and has great results), individualized education (for special interests and special challenges), and all the fun (field trips, hands-on stuff, projects) that is part of home schooling.

The down side is Mom can get burned out and really just too exhausted to do it effectively any more. There are also some positive peer pressures in school that can help some children learn. (Oh! You mean everyone my age is supposed to be able to do that? Then they try harder.) And some kids grow in social and academic confidence in the school setting. (Although the opposite can occur too and that can be a reason for home schooling.)
I may write a post about this, Leigh, and link to you. All my children are in school now and I have actually thought about this a lot, of course. God bless.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Hello from another Catholic mom- blogger. I am not a former liberal, but Husband is! ;-) He's come a loong way.
I would be willing to discuss homeschooling with you, especially your question on why aren't we supportive of traditional parish-based schools. We lived for years in a diocese where you couldn't get more traditional, daily-mass, nuns-in-habit, reverent Catholic schools! And I still homeschooled for the most part. Why? Because the problem is with the school model in itself, at least for us. The kids spend too much time in school. Until 8th grade they should go to school half day! The shifting of the center of a child's life from home to school at 6 years old is disastrous!

the mother of this lot said...

Hi Leigh, I am not a homeschooler. All my kids have gone to the same Catholic primary (I think that's your elementary)school that I attended, but they have not had the same grounding in the faith that I received there. I have always felt that it was my duty to 'fill in the gaps', so it was me who taught them about reverence in church, the rosary' lives of the saints etc. But it never occurred to me to homeschool them, although I must say it is nowhere near as fashionable here as in the US. I am qualified as a primary teacher, so I could manage the curriculum, and obviously I see the benfits of individual education, but I think I would be concerned about isolation and the social aspect.

I've enjoyed reading the resposes!

Mrs. T said...

Yet another Catholic homeschool-blogger here.

To begin with, I'd say to Ana's post: what she said. I have been a classroom teacher (high-school and university-level); I have sent my oldest children to school. Having seen that model from both perspectives, as well as having been a school child myself, I find the home-learning model to be superior. Why? Well, the twaddle factor is significantly less. The time-wasted factor is almost nil. The "if I just sit here on the back row and keep my mouth shut she won't call on me" factor is non-existent, as is the "well, I SAT in geometry class for a year, but do I know beans about geometry" factor (answer: if you're me, then no, you do not know beans about geometry, and did not at the time, either).

On the positive side: one-to-one teacher/student ratio. Independent learning. Learning that fits the learner, not the school's budget or "mission." Older siblings learning by helping younger siblings. Siblings being involved in each other's lives, and enjoying each other's company (my children are rather widely spread, and when my thirdborn was a baby, and the older two were in school, he had very little chance to see and interact with them). More time to incorporate life-skills learning side-by-side with academic learning. No sense that a given time either is or is not learning time, because you're learning something all the time.

For all those reasons, we would keep homeschooling even if there were a good Catholic school available. For what it's worth, there's not. Our parish school consistently wins "best private elementary school" awards, but what they're turning out are not recognizably Catholic students (or recognizably well-behaved students, either, if my observations at school Masses, and my kids' experience in the parish treble choir are any indication).

When our kids attended an English state school, my husband and I began very quickly to realize that whatever our kids were learning that was of substance came from us, not the school. We felt we were making up, in the after-hours, for what hadn't been accomplished all day. Ultimately we began to ask ourselves, "Why exactly are we arranging our lives around this useless middleman?"

This is even more true when it comes to catechetical formation. What is on offer in our parish and school is drek, plain and simple. "I Am Special" -- well, no, duh, buddy, but it was not on specialness that Jesus founded His Church. Our available options would be either to send the kids to school (or PRE), and then spend time we wouldn't have trying to un-teach it all. Seems far simpler to me to build our lives around our faith, and to learn it by living it together, with help from orthodox catechetical materials.

As for the disadvantages to homeschooling -- some children respond well to the kind of peer pressure a previous commenter describes, and some do not. My oldest did not. At all. Any hint of "failure," and she imploded. Once we removed the element of peer competition, she began to thrive, and she now holds her own in a homeschool high-school co-op where she's the youngest student in the class. What we really want to teach our children, in any event, is to compete with themselves and not to worry about what other people are doing.

Re burnout: teachers burn out, too. And yet they're getting paid, so they keep going through the motions. There are ways for a mother to avoid a certain amount of burnout, and also to change her MO when she feels she's hitting the wall. This can ultimately be a productive thing for everyone, since kids get burned out as well on the same old routine. The family deals with seasons like this together -- as opposed to the children in a class perhaps intuiting that Teacher is having a bad day, or year, or life, but not being able to communicate this very well to parents, who can't do much about Teacher's bad life in any case. Even an involved parent cannot possibly know everything that goes on in a classroom, but not knowing it doesn't mean it's not happening.

Anyway, I'm going on for too long -- I should probably write my own post on the subject, but I imagine that others are already doing a stellar job.

Joannof10 said...

Leigh, We have been homeschooling for 15 years. For us, we didn't have the option of a good Catholic elementary school, but we are been blessed with a wonderful private, Catholic 7-12 school. I feel that we have the best of both world's because I can nurture my small children, and help form who they are and who they will become without outside influences. I feel that they are very capable young people when they enter school at 12 or 13 for the first time.

Anonymous said...

I would say that as I've learned and read more about my faith articles like this:
"In its Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis (GE) 3, the Vatican Council also forcefully reminds parents of this natural-law right and obligation to educate their children, teaching: "Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators." Vatican II's decree on the apostolate of the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem (13), places a duty on Christian married partners "strenuously to affirm the right and duty of parents and guardians to educate children in a Christian manner." Likewise, Pope John Paul II affirms the right and duty of parents to provide for the education of their children by calling the right not only "essential" but also "irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others." (Familiaris Consortio, 36)" (from http://www.catholicintl.com/epologetics/articles/pastoral/stravinskas-homeschool.htm) have made me rethink my approach and obligation towards my children's education.

I also just really like having them around. :)

Mrs. T said...

Duh -- I HAVE written a post about this. Here it is: Schooling at Home.

I don't know if this really answers what you want to know, but I guess it is something of a personal manifesto on the subject . . .

Jennifer said...

Hi there! In our case, Catholic education in our area is more than we can handle financially ($5,000 -$10,000 per year, per child). We want God at the center of our children's education and parochial school wasn't an option. It was very simple. I have many public school teachers (very good teachers) in the family who are frustrated with all the regulation. They have their hands tied much of the time by the government. I love having my children with me and our lives are very peaceful and happy. I don't have a big problem with "regular" schools at all. We consider it every September, but this is working for right now. I don't think it is perfect. What works for my daughter right now quite possibly won't work for my son. Frankly, this isn't anything I ever saw myself doing, but again, I am very pleased with our children's development. Thanks for the interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. T:
Your response began with the phrase "duh"?...I can see all that homeschooling has made you patient and compassionate! What a rude way to answer an honest question from someone who appears to respectful and nice. Good grief.

Anonymous said...

She was saying "duh" to herself.

Mrs. T said...

Sorry, I was "duh"-ing at my own earlier comment about writing a post. I said at the end of my comment that I should write my own blog post, but that others were doing a stellar job. My "duh" was not directed at Leigh. I guess that's the difficulty with this comment business -- it's easy to forget that other's comments are going to intervene between you and your own last thought.

I certainly would not treat another person with that kind of disrespect, and I am grieved that it appeared that I did.

Leigh said...

Mrs T: I understood what you meant. No worries!

Jen said...

Here you go Leigh - my response at my blog:

http://wildflowersandmarbles.blogspot.com/2008/01/i-am-going-to-do-my-best-to-respond-to.html

God bless.

Marianne said...

Leigh,

We homeschool because school social environments (even parochial) can be poison to the souls of children. I feel very personally responsible for their well being - educationally, spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially. I do not want my children hardened by the world at an early age. I also see the benefits of learning as a family, one on one tutoring for trouble spots, and self directed productive time. I can use the best of the best materials at home, and tailor make our curriculum to each child's needs and interests. I also don't like being at the mercy of a school schedule, school rules and school curriculum.

Others are much more eloquent, but those are some things off the top of my head.

Servant2theKIng said...

17+ years ago I was a SAHM, with two children in Catholic school, where I volunteered regularly and was deeply involved in all that went on in my children's school experience. Then oneday the veneer was removed and I learned more about the school's curriculum content. In challenging its use I also discovered more than I ever wanted to know about similar issues in most of our so-called Catholic schools in America. I learned a great deal as I uncovered the truth about what my children and I had been exposed to in the name of Catholic education. Our homeschooling venture began when we withdrew our two oldest from that nominally Catholic school (which I had also attended as a youth), due to their use of state materials which strongly conflicted with Catholic teaching. The loss of Catholic identity in US schools, then and now, would be sufficient cause for us to continue to homeschool, but our greater reason for doing so has evolved from the fact that we have finally found the true essence of what it means to be a Domestic Church. It is in and through the homeschooling lifestyle that we are able to be, and become, MORE of what the Church teaches us family ought to be! Before we homeschooled our Faith, and family life, were compartmentalized and we were able to devote only mere fractions of our time, energy and attention to what truly matters most. Now Faith and family are the primary elements of ALL that we think and do and say, every moment of every day! It's not really about choosing school or non-school forms of education any more...it's about fully embracing the commission to be a Domestic Church!

Michele Quigley said...

Hi Leigh,

I don't think your question sounds like an attack at all but a sincere inquiry.

We too strongly believe in Catholic education but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to send our children to the parish school.

Home education is a valid and effective form of Catholic education. It doesn't need to be at odds with Catholic education as it happens in the schools and indeed it really shouldn't be, since no matter which option they chose, the Church clearly teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children.

Our family has chosen to homeschool for a variety of reasons. We started out with Catholic schools and frankly I was not at all in favor of homeschooling. At one point I even made the statement that I would NEVER do it. But things change. The more time our children spent in school the more we encountered problems. Besides the aspects of living in a morally bankrupt culture and seeing its effect on our children --even in a Catholic school-- there was also a watering down of the Faith that just could not be ignored.

We tried for over 7 years to help change that but in the end we realized we were making very little progress and giving a lot of time and energy that could be better directed at our own children. We knew we could continue to fight with the school (and sadly that's what it often ended up as, a fight) or put our energy and focus into giving our children the best Catholic education we could. We chose the latter and for our family it has been a true blessing.

Is it difficult? Yes, sometimes it really is. But we did the school routine long enough to know that's no picnic either. Choosing to homeschool has been the best option for OUR family.

God bless you!

Mrs. T said...

Me again -- and thanks, Leigh, I'm glad you knew I wasn't kicking you!

As an addendum to what Michele said, and also to an earlier comment regarding burnout: we also did the school routine for four years, and I think what you have, honestly, in the dichotomy between institutional schooling and homeschooling, is not mommy burnout vs. escape from burnout. You have possible mommy burnout vs. possible family burnout. My own burnout moments seem small and offer-up-able next to the kind of family-wide exhaustion and frustration we used to experience when we lived on a school schedule.

I was talking about this with my husband -- which is partly why I keep having new thoughts about it and inflicting them on you all -- and he offered the following observation. He is an academic theologian teaching in a local Catholic university and regularly sees students who have come from 12 years of formation in our local Catholic schools. His experience has been that they are neither particularly well-formed academically (though they often seem to think that they are, because they have a diploma from St. X's that says so), nor well-formed to walk apart from secular culture -- or even to realize that there is an "apart."

I love what Michele has to say about Catholic education. She's actually put together a pretty rich and rigorous Catholic education herself (well, with another Catholic homeschooling mother), which is available at Mater Amabilis. We've used this program happily for three years and are grateful to have access to something of this quality for our kids.

(ok, really, shutting up now . . . )

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

The only homeschoolers I ever came across when I was younger were these weirdos in town (I think they were Mormon and had tons of kids) but I got to know them because they sometimes public schooled but I still thought it was a weirdo thing to do. Until I had my first child. I was exposed to two families (Non-Catholic Christians) who homeschooled and they seemed perfectly normal (with wonderful, respectful, non-nerdy children!). I didn't think my daughter was quite ready for Kindegarten (when she turned 5) so I decided just to homeschool for that year. I just kept going! We don't have the most stellar "Catholic" school in the area (the one I went to in the 70's) and even if we did, our family could not afford to send all these kids there! So, every year (like some other commentors) we think about what we are going to do and we do it again! I've noticed lately that my kids aren't embarassed at all that they do something "different" from the mainstream and are proud to tell people (when we are out and about during the day) that we homeschool! I also think that homeschooling encourages family pride and unity, and teaches responsibility. Oh, one other thing!...I learn (every day) something new about the world (and myself) through my children. I can take the time to really know my children well (because they are with me most of the time) and know, instantly when something is wrong. We socialize with people from all walks of life and it's quite nice to see the kids learning about different ways that people live and different things that they believe (while learning to love them despite the differences). I don't blog about homeschooling too much, but I'm sure I've had a number of posts over the years about it. Check 'em out if you want!

Layah said...

Hi, I found this post by way of an answer on another blog and really wanted to join in and encourage you. I see this is an old post, but you might still be interested in my version. Others have said so much that I won't repeat everything. I want to encourage you that there is nothing wrong with a parish school. I believe they are often different than when I was a girl and only nuns taught, but you're right. They're known for being good. I went to catholic school as well as public school and a regular private school before I was homeschooled. That is probably the biggest reason I began planning to homeschool. I really enjoyed Catholic school the best out of all the conventional schools. But homeschooling was out of this world wonderful! That is why I wanted to give such a gift to my children. Being able to do school in a way that works best for you individually is a blessing I am grateful to have experience. It prepared my siblings and I excellently for independent work in college and successful careers for the men. I suppose we would have done well anyway, but the paths our lives went down would certainly have been different in some instances. One of my siblings started out in special ed classes because of being "over-active". He doesn't remember this thanks to beginning homeschooling early in his school career. He was president of his college honor society and has a wonderful job and family today. We'll never know though how much homeschooling changed our lives except we were all much happier for it. It is hard to explain, but you sort of answer the question in your post. You are a stay at home mom as I am. I get asked why I chose to do that and waste my education, and there are probably those who wonder why you stay home too. You chose to stay home for a reason, and probably because you believed it best for your family. It is a choice you made, a wonderful sacrifice. That is exactly why I homeschool. I don't believe every mom must. I am just happy mine did, and I want to pass that legacy on.