Our First Homeschool Year!
I still cannot believe I am a homeschooling mom. Talk about not what I expected! Yet, after successfully completing our first year, I can honestly say I am deeply in love with home educating & for right now it is a perfect fit for our family! I am not in any way assuming this will always be the case, but it brings me joy to reflect on this past year.
It all started with my husband who had a wonderful experience being homeschool by my mother-in-law K-8. Then when our oldest turned 2 & we began thinking about pre-school, my husband would gently retell his amazing homeschool experience & prudently suggest we exhaust all of our children’s education choices. Thus, my voracious research began; reading The Well Trained Mind, The Montessori Method, For the Children’s Sake, Classical Education, Teaching from Rest, Catholic Homeschooling & many more; binging podcasts Read Aloud Revival, Homeschool Snapshots, Your Morning Basket, The Mason Jar, A Delectable Education, and interviewing local homeschooling families. The more information I gathered, the more I liked. As the next few years flew by, and our boys naturally learned in our family home environment and through library time, park dates, and nature hikes, the decision to hold off on formal school for just another year continued. I fortunately acquired more and more friends in our vibrant local homeschool community, fell in love with the plethora of homeschool curriculums offered (there are SO many amazing & free Christian ones that inspire truth, beauty, goodness and virtue!) and enjoyed watching my children learn. And so here we are flourishing in knowledge with surprising plans to continue to homeschool for kindergarten at the DeRose Academy next year!
Here are the lessons I learned through my hours of research and short experience:
Biggest hangups -
- Socialization - As a social butterfly who loved my experience of 12 years of parochial school, this was definitely my biggest hang up. Wouldn’t they be missing out, have trouble making friends or fitting in? Luckily, this biggest myth is widely debunked in the homeschool literature and research. Yes, there are the outliers who might fit your negative stereotype of homeschoolers, but I can just as easily point out the negative stereotype products of public or parochial schooled kids. It comes down to the opportunities the family presents, and best decision for each individual child. Learning the root word of socialization is “society,” helped me understand that the basic unit of a society through which socialization is best learned is the family! Children have the best opportunity to learn how to relate to all different ages and sex through the family. It also helped me to witness the success stories of products of homeschooling (my own husband ;), and learn how its popularity and various opportunities in co-ops etc has grown. As my husband likes to remind me, being homeschooled actually offered him more time to play sports and extracurricular activities, since homeschooling has the bonus of no homework leaving your evenings more free. As for our oldest missing the “socialization of preschool,” between cousins, neighbors, and co-op friends, he had more kids at his 5 year old birthday party than I think I did! I’m over that hangup for now, but I admit the community of fellow homeschoolers and variety of co-ops available in our area play an essential part.
- Too Much Time - As an extreme extravert who loves my career, the thought of spending all day teaching little children at home was less than appealing. I would definitely doubt my decision as soon I saw the neighbors loading into the school bus, yet, as the year progressed, I became more confident. The fear of spending too much time with my kids dissolved or became irrelevant. Our preschool & kindergarten ‘work’ was always done in about an hour or less, leaving the rest of the day free for reading, play, or really whatever I wanted. There is no denying being a homeschooling mom is a major time investment, however, it actually might break closer to even when you add up the time that is committed to formal school obligations. I tried to keep the motto ‘a happy mom is a happy home’ at the forefront, voicing to my husband whenever I needed a break, and fortunately he would always graciously help a ton and take over the kids whenever I asked. I made sure to do the things that “fill me up,” like leading my prayer groups, gym time, mom dates, and working in the evenings as a Fertility Care Practitioner. I still have some big career goals for myself in this next decade, so I am once again placing them at foot of the cross to see how I can fit them in while continuing to homeschool. The pre-prepared curriculums and shorter amount of actual school hours needed allows for endless and creative ways of using your time as a homeschool mom. There are moms who continue to work outside the home in various careers and use the flexibility of their time to their advantage while continuing to homeschool. In the end, I found homeschooling this year forced me to prioritize my time better, slow down my time in other ways, while finally leaving time for the things that I really wanted for our family.
- Teaching Concerns - I never loved math. I am not a certified teacher. I think a common fear in beginning a homeschool journey is how can I know everything & teach everything to my children? The good news is that you don’t. The opportunities for outsourcing home education are endless. Between free online curriculums, cyber technology, co-ops, the library, you can be more than well-equipped without having to be an expert in anything, and if you are not comfortable teaching a certain subject, you don’t have to. Personally, I found so much joy in re-learning alongside my children and discovering the beautiful literature, poetry, and art that was new to me as an adult. I'm actually pretty pumped to dive into Shakespeare and Latin alongside them! I enjoyed watching their personal interests develop and having the control to follow their lead, choose what they read, and who might be teaching them what. I found the 1:1 attention to be the optimal teaching and learning environment, and as experienced homeschool moms will tell you, you know your kids best and teaching them will come easier than you think.
Biggest Joys -
- Faith - Personally, I didn’t start out to homeschool with passing on the faith as my main priority. When we first made our family school mission statement, I was focused on the academic and family bonding advantages homeschool could offer. However, I have slowly come to embrace that teaching my children about our faith is absolutely my number one mission as a parent, and thus, my number one mission of our family homeschool. Finding ways to teach my sons how to pray, how much God loves them, how we can use our God given gifts to serve others, why we act the way we do, and on & on about the richness of our faith…has deepened my own faith in ways I never thought possible. I have been so pleasantly surprised to connect every subject to the Divine - even math! (which I am learning can turn out to the be the best way to learn about God’s infinite nature and His order in the worlds creation). My ideas of the purpose of education have drastically changed, thank you St. Thomas Aquinas! We have time to memorize scripture together, learn the mysteries of the rosary, the saint of the day, go to daily mass, or sing church hymns during lunch. I am able to foster our deep love of God into all of our education however I please, and when I am stressing over a curriculum checklist, my phlegmatic friend reminds me, “teaching them that Jesus loves them is really all that matters.”
- Flexibility - As much as I love to plan, not being tied to a formal school schedule has been a wonderful blessing to our family. Especially at my kids young ages, the flexibility of homeschooling allows me to cancel ‘school’ whenever I want, schedule our own holiday and vacation breaks, spend longer or shorter on a specific subject, visit family during the middle of the week, or have a spontaneous field trips with fellow homeschoolers. The flexibility in the curriculum is also something I am coming to love. Having the ability to avoid things like Common Core that I might not want my kids being exposed to, ditch the syllabus that isn't working for us, choosing only books that fill them with truth, beauty and goodness are all true joys of homeschooling.
- Relationships - I know the Bible and modern research tell us that relationships really are the most important thing in life, and this year of homeschooling has strengthened the relationships that matter to me most. My husband trusts me with the education of our children, and we make decisions of subjects, curriculums, co-ops, field trips together. Spending more time with my children and seeing them at their best when they reach educational milestones, and learning the inner struggles of their hearts allows me to better nurture and encourage them in educational endeavors. I have to draw deeper into my relationship with God and depend more and more upon His grace. (bonus: watching the sibling relationship between the boys blossom too!)
What we used this year:
- Mother of Divine Grace Pre-School
- Math-U-See Kindergarten Primer
- Teach your child to read 100 easy lessons
- RAR Booklists & Mater Amabilis Booklists (we read a TON & listened to lots of audiobooks)
- Nicholas attended once a week Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program
- Memory work - Robert Louis Stevenson Poetry - memorized 10 poems, Psalms 23 & 27, Catholic prayers & hymns, We Sing America Songs
- Favorite Family Read-Alouds: Stuart Little, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, My Fathers Dragon, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
- Favorite Family Trips: John Williams Concert, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Chester County Trails
Homeschooling is definitely not for everyone, but formal school is also not what it used to be. It might be worth it for homeschooling to be a realistic discernment for every parent, at the very least, researching for yourself and exhausting your options (you might be as surprised as I was!). I hope this encourages anyone out there who might be considering, while keeping in mind what veteran homeschoolers warn by taking it year by year, child by child, which is what I plan to do. I'm prepared that this may all change a year and new baby later (oh the parenting journey!), but for right now, for this year, for our family, homeschooling been a joyful, wonderful blessing!
I am so proud of the boys, here is our fun graduation wrap up & some picture highlights of the year!
In the words of Mark Twain, never let schooling interfere with your education!