Now that we've discussed how anxiety should not prevent people beginning to home school, let's look at what comes next. Three things to think about when starting are: curriculum, support groups, and dealing with family and friends' reactions.
MIDDLETON,NY (Catholic Online) - Now that we've discussed how anxiety should not prevent people beginning to home school, let's look at what comes next.
Three things to think about when starting are: curriculum, support groups, and dealing with family and friends' reactions.
Today's home educator will encounter a bewildering number of curriculum options. A Google search on home schooling will bring millions, not thousands, of results. The bounty of the internet cuts two ways.
There are books with syllabuses and lesson plans included. There are correspondence schools, many of them Catholic, which offer a full service distance curriculum, complete with tests, report cards, and record keeping. There are online, interactive courses.
The variety is wonderful, but how to narrow it all down?
Attending a conference or curriculum fair can be invaluable. You can see materials before you buy and ask questions of people who sell them. You can often ask questions of those who have written them.
I had a breakthrough moment about teaching reading at a conference. Linda Bromeier, author of the Little Angels phonics series, was giving a talk. My first two kids could already read when I started home schooling. I was facing teaching reading for the first time with my third child. My sister-in-law had assured me that the other subjects would eventually be learned if reading was mastered. That was comforting but I felt immense pressure about reading.
I feared my children would miss out on the pleasure reading had afforded me. I feared they would struggle with all the other subjects if I messed up their reading.
Linda took questions at the end of her talk. One person after another asked whether this or that program was good. She had the same answer for each, "If it's all or mostly phonics, it will be fine." The third time she said it, I felt a weight lift from me. The fear that one mistake could cause permanent harm vanished. As long as I used phonics, I would not cripple my child's intellect for life! Today my third born is a brain researcher.
What about after the conference? The value of a local support group cannot be overstated.
You might find, for example, a curriculum that got high ratings on so many websites? A mom in a local group may tell you that's the one that requires four seminars before you can use it.
Your child shows signs of difficulty reading or counting? A mom in your group may have a child with similar problems. Your group may put you in touch with community resources like reading specialists or diagnostic testing.
And since the life of a home school family includes challenges beyond the academic, you will need psychological, emotional, and spiritual support. Since 1998 my group's moms have helped each other weather every problem from illness to daily lessons to family crises. We pray for each other every day. We haven't always agreed about how to do things. But we are far stronger for the shared experience and have a deep bond of friendship.
If you can't find a Catholic group, there are many evangelical Christian groups. While you would not be attending Mass together, you would meet people willing to advise, support, and pray for you. They would be able to understand your day to day needs.
If no religious group is available, look for a secular group. While they may or may not be people who pray, you can still get information, support, and activities like field trips, academic enrichment, or play time. And you may find that joining a secular group puts you in touch with people who would like to start a Catholic one.
But what about your mother-in-law or your dad, or other person who has doubts about your decision to home school? Some family members can be quite vocal with fears and even opposition. One friend of mine was told she is "ruining" her children!
It's easy to feel defensive. After all, this decision is something you and your husband have thought through very carefully. The remarks seem intrusive, even insulting. Yet you would like to pursue your decision while preserving important relationships.
Sometimes assuring people that learning and friends for the children are important to you is enough to keep the peace until family members begin to see positive results. For the first few years my in-laws mourned the lack of "normal" milestones. Where were the report cards, the concerts, the football games?
As time passed there were spelling bees, plays, piano recitals, and karate tournaments. The grandparents met the kids' friends. One day they took me aside and thanked me for home schooling the children! They said our kids were the most respectful, bright, well behaved kids they knew.
While I have to admit my kids may put on their best behavior for their grandparents, the positive effects of home schooling did become its best defense.
Christine Sacchi, who lives in Middleton, NY, has not yet finished homeschooling all of her seven children. A horn player, she blogs about opera at bassobuff.blogspot.com and attended The King's College and the Manhattan School of Music.
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