by Ginny Seuffert
Many readers–maybe you–are toying with the idea of homeschooling, not quite sure if you want to take the plunge. Here are some questions you may be asking yourself.
I’m not a teacher, not even a college graduate. Am I qualified to teach my children?
Colleges prepare teachers to stand in front of a classrooms of twenty-odd students, of varying backgrounds and abilities, and present a set plan of study. Homeschool parents, even those with large families, teach one well-known, well-loved child at a time. Just as the situations are different, so also the necessary qualifications are different.
Research reveals very little correlation between homeschool student achievement and their parents’ educational level. The prerequisites of homeschooling parents are the love they have for their children and the graces they received in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Will I get in trouble with the truant officer?
Some states do not even require parents to inform local school boards about their plan to homeschool. Other states require written notification, registration, or periodic reports. Usually, enrolling the children in an accredited home study course, like Seton Home Study School, will satisfy government mandates.
You can find more information about your state’s requirements by visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association at hslda.org, but the important thing to remember is that homeschooling is legal in every one of the fifty states.
My extended family thinks homeschooling is a crazy notion. How can I convince them?
Don’t try too hard. Just tell them you are going to homeschool “this year” because you have heard so many reports about the great achievements of home educated students. Next year, you can tell them that things went so well you want to try it for “one more year.”
In the end, it will be your polite, well-educated children who demonstrate the value of homeschooling to your family.
What if my children won’t listen to me when I tell them to do their schoolwork?
This is a very common worry, but it really does not matter where your children are taught – at home, or in a brick-and-mortar school – they still must respect and obey you.
If you feel you need to get a better handle on discipline, guidance is available. Seton counselors are happy to help enrolled families, and anyone can purchase several books about the Catholic perspective on discipline from the Seton Educational Media catalog. Seton Press is publishing a book on discipline, written by yours truly, a mother of twelve children, specifically directed to Catholic homeschooling families. Discipline is a hot topic at Catholic homeschooling and parent conferences, and many speakers offer helpful advice.
No matter where or how they are educated, courteous, well-behaved children are a joy to their parents, their extended families, and their communities. They are a pleasure to homeschool.
How many hours each day should I expect to spend on home schooling?
Because homeschooled children do not need to hang up their coats, or find their seats, or wait for the class to settle down, home learning is usually more efficient than institutional schools. Children who grasp concepts quickly often breeze through their work, especially in the early grades.
Some children can finish primary grade work before lunch. As schoolwork gets more challenging, the school day gets longer, topping off in high school at maybe six or seven hours. These are just averages based on my own experience using the Seton program. A bright, motivated child might not need that much time, while other students take longer to digest concepts, and still others may dawdle.
Remember, Mom does not need to spend as much one-on-one time with upper-grade students. Some middle or high school pupils can do some of their work independently with a parent just checking to see that assignments are being completed in a timely and correct fashion.
I have one of those “big” Catholic families. Is there anyway I could take care of my little ones, keep my house in order, prepare meals, AND homeschool? It does not seem possible.
As a mother of twelve children myself, I always laugh at this question. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is easy when you have a large family. And that includes homeschooling. On the other hand, having children in preschool, a different grammar school, a junior high and senior high, and coordinating teacher meetings, permission slips, class parties, homework, and after school activities is not my idea of a restful life either.
Do not hesitate to take some of the tuition you would be paying to a Catholic school and put it towards some domestic help. Get grocery store rotisserie chickens for dinner a couple of nights per week. Train your children to take over some household responsibilities. Most of all, keep your school and household routines simple and straightforward.
There are some mothers of mega-families who successfully home school right through high school, and later on help teach their grandchildren at home.
My children will be in high school in a couple of years. I don’t speak a foreign language, barely passed chemistry, and forget algebra and geometry. How can I possibly teach them to my children?
Most homeschooling moms share your concerns, but we have all found solutions. Some programs offer interactive DVDs that teach students upper level math or foreign language on the computer. Seton offers foreign language audio clips, common geometric constructions, and a host of other helps for high school students on their MySeton webpage. Seton provides audio, and now even videos, to help high school students. Older students may take chemistry or physics at the local community college.
Qualified parents will sometimes offer classes to high school students in math or science. Perhaps a local homeschooling dad is an engineer or a mom is a nurse. I taught French for several years to my own and some neighboring homeschool students. Some priests will teach Latin. Occasionally, parents share a tutor they locate through a local school. All of these options are considerably less expensive than the tuition at a typical Catholic high school.
Is it really all that important to use a Catholic program?
Using a Catholic curriculum is the most important choice you make for your children. Nothing is more essential than inculcating Catholic virtues such as faith, diligence, temperance, loyalty, and of course, love of God and neighbor. Our goal is to raise our children to be adults of noble character and impeccable integrity who will be responsible citizens and, ultimately, saints for eternity.
Every textbook and educational material you use should foster this goal. A Catholic program is key to your success.
Just do it!
For over twenty years, parents have approached me with their doubts and hesitations as they consider homeschooling. Like any other important life decision, the time will never be 100% right. Parents–you–just need to take a step out in faith and do it. There are sure to be bumps along the way; anything worthwhile is difficult, but help and support are widely available. My advice all these years has been, “Just do it, just start homeschooling.”
Since the beginning, I have run into the same parents a year, or two, or even a decade later. They thank me. “You told me to take a step in faith. It was the best decision I ever made.” You will say the same words, too.
Just do it! Just start to homeschool.