September Checklist

September is an exciting time when the children are eagerly looking at their new books, and moms are hopeful that this year will be the best ever. But merely wishing doesn’t necessarily get you what you hope for. You must take action. Here are some ideas to help your school year flow more smoothly…

Pre-K at Home is Better!

The last several decades have seen a major change in how Americans educate their youngest children, most notably an explosion of tiny tots attending formal preschool outside the home. From all the major media outlets, parents hear, “Children must enter kindergarten ready to learn.” “Lack of readiness” is routinely blamed for poor achievement in American schools. So-called experts preach the acceptable path to follow: preschool is essential to prepare young learners by teaching necessary academic skills. Early education will foster socialization among peers. Children learn best in classes taught by teachers trained in early education, and toddlers are exposed to art, music, and physical education. They learn how to wait their turn and follow other simple rules of courtesy. They experience the diversity of modern America at an early age…

Getting Started

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.

Positive Changes

A big benefit of home education is the opportunity to make sensible changes or additions to the curriculum to accommodate a particular child’s learning needs. Of course, the wise homeschooling mom realizes that modification needs to be implemented to enhance the child’s overall educational experience, not simply because the child is resisting assigned work. Sometimes curriculum changes are called for when parents are unable adequately to teach the planned curriculum, or to meet a legitimate educational need, or to provide true enrichment to students’ education.

To Tailor or Not To Tailor the Curriculum

For many years, Seton lesson plans included a piece of paper—hot pink to catch parental attention—that reminded parents to “change the program to fit the child and NOT try to change the child to fit the program.” Today, the lesson plans often remind parents that they are proceeding at a pace that is appropriate for that age and grade, but that parents can feel free to accelerate or apply the brakes if necessary. Clearly, modifying a curriculum plan to suit an individual student’s talents and abilities is an essential benefit of home schooling, but just how accommodating should a wise parent be? Is there such a thing as too much customizing, and how do we know? Here are some simple ideas to help you.

Learning from History

My two previous columns (available in the online newsletter archive) gave a brief history of the rise, and sadly the partial decline, of Catholic education in the United States. To accomplish the goal of a Catholic education for their children, parents are increasingly turning to homeschooling, but we homeschoolers have many lessons we can learn from the Catholic educators who came before us. For Catholic homeschooling to succeed and thrive in educating future generations, it must remain authentically Catholic, unapologetically rigorous, and marked by a commitment to diligence and order.

How Parish Schools Led to Catholic Home Schooling

Last month’s column was the story of how a largely poor, immigrant population built a powerhouse parish school system that provided a first-rate scholastic education. By the mid 1960s, the Catholic system reached its peak with 4.5 million elementary school pupils, and another million students in Catholic high schools.

Perseverance

My personal pet peeves include books and authors who present homeschooling as an always fun and sunny alternative to institutional schools. If you believe some of what is written, you might easily think that our homeschooled children are sitting at their tidy desks, in their neat school clothes, diligently hammering at the books, while begging for more challenging work. Let’s face it: sometimes the truth is not quite so pretty, making it easy to lose sight of our goals.

Holy Habits in the Home

Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, on Catholic radio discussed the challenges facing the young men in the seminary. Vocations to the priesthood are up in Chicago, due in no small part to men from countries such as Mexico, Poland and the Philippines who come here to serve the Church in the U.S. While all the seminarians are pious and enthusiastic, the local men face special issues. The men from foreign lands grew up in observant homes in vibrant Catholic cultures, while the Chicago men grew up … well, here.

The Blue Zone

Faithful Catholic home schooling parents understand the value of our lifestyles in forming souls for eternity. Recently, however, I read a book that hints we may enjoy a real advantage here and now—living to our 90s or even 100s. In The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner shares the results of his research in four areas of the world that have a large population of centenarians: Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda CA, and Costa Rica. Some of his findings and recommendations are expected: eat less, and base your diet on mostly unprocessed, plant-based foods. Drink lots of water. Build vigorous physical activity into daily life. Other, more surprising results, point to the value of daily life in the typical Catholic home school family, and suggest that it may actually be adding years to our lives on earth.