Update: This post was written July 2019. We have now finished our second year of homeschooling and the saying that it gets easier – is true!
It has been quite a year – one full year since we started life as a homeschool family. In that one year, we not only took a different route from our seven years at a private Catholic grade school, but we also welcomed baby number five to our family. My grandmother always said, “God’s plans are better than our own.” These words ring especially true over the past year. What I thought would be just a school transition, turned out to be an entire family transition when we welcomed a baby on September 4, 2018.
If you had asked me five years ago about homeschooling, I would’ve responded that it just wasn’t for our family. (And that is partly true: it just wasn’t for our family at that time.) As a mom of young children, I didn’t understand fully how little ones learn differently, and that one form of education is not a good fit for all. My choleric temperament took over two years of contemplation, prayer, and convincing, before it was clear that we were to homeschool. (And if any of you know a choleric — long periods of contemplation are very rare. I tend to make decisions rather quickly.)
Choosing to homeschool, after seven years in a private Catholic school, was a leap of faith. But God always provides and patiently waits for us to accept His Will. This was most definitely the case for us.
Homeschooling is not meant for everyone, and once a homeschool family doesn’t mean forever a homeschool family, but I would like to share what prompted our decision and why it’s the best fit for our family at this time.
- Family Life
After our spiritual lives, there is nothing more important than family life. The state of the family tends to be overlooked much more now in society than ever before. It is a heavy burden, but the state of family life largely falls upon the mother. As women, we have been gifted with feminine traits that make a house into a home or a group of relatives into a family. If we do not strive, on a daily basis, to protect the sacredness of the family, it will only become a passing fancy from generations ago.
Between extracurricular activities, school, and homework, our life was moving too fast. With private schools often come large amounts of homework, and this expectation is not doable for many large families. My husband and I want our children to be children. To enjoy playing after spending eight hours at school. To learn not only how to interact in a classroom setting, but how to serve the community, use imaginative play with their siblings and cousins, but overall to pray and spend quality time as a family. The hours of nightly homework were quite stressful for our daughter. Neglecting the family Rosary for schoolwork was frustrating, and that was when I began contemplating homeschooling.
- The Expectations
I have noticed a trend in many schools. The dropping test scores across the world (or at least in many countries) have brought schools running towards a solution, but instead of looking at what developed and trained vibrant minds in the past, school boards are searching for new and improved material. I have a deep love of learning and academics. I understand the importance of education and the value it not only brings in this life, but also that it can raise a person’s mind and soul towards holier things, and ultimately God.
Children are not adults, and we tend to forget this fact. Each year of school is meant to build upon itself. It isn’t necessary to push children ahead in every subject. The expectations that come along with advanced academics can lead children away from their innocence and into a stressful environment. Learning should lead toward what is good, true, and beautiful, not only toward an increase in test scores.
A few of my children thrive in math, while others thrive in language arts. With homeschooling, I am able to keep the child at grade level for their struggling subjects and move them forward where they excel. Ultimately, I desire them to love learning no matter the subject.
- The Love of a Mother
This one is much simpler. I just love my children. I know, I know, we all love our children. But I have learned over the past ten years that I am happiest when I’m with my husband and children. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying it’s easy. I just love being the one teaching them their phonics and math facts, planning field trips, singing in the kitchen with them while making dinner, and listening to them converse about Jesus and Mary. The summer months were always my favorite. Not only because I love the warm weather (and we don’t get many months of it in Wisconsin), but I loved those months with my children. I am well aware that this hands-on approach isn’t for everyone, but it was a huge factor in making this decision. I love mothering my children, but don’t get me wrong, I need breaks too. I no longer have my children only in the morning and at night, I now get to spend the day teaching them, while also learning from them too. It is truly a gift.
No one understands a child the way parents understand their child. Teachers are truly amazing and self-giving human beings. I am indebted to the many wonderful teachers that taught my children at our private school, but homeschooling has created a beautiful environment for my children to develop self-confidence and a mind for discovery. The home is where children often let go of their emotions, throw tantrums, argue incessantly with their siblings, and test boundaries with adults, but these are all normal and not only a sign of growth, but of security.
Homeschooling has brought a new level of self-confidence to my three school-aged children beyond what I expected. They have the potential and are learning to chase their dreams. My oldest child wants to earn her degree in accounting and start an orphanage. My second child has a love for animals and desires to become a zoologist. My third child, who is only 5 years old, know that he wants to build a house. These dreams aren’t solely a result of homeschooling, but I have been able to foster each of their interests more than a brick-and-mortar school is able to do.
- The Faith
We were blessed to have a Catholic school that integrated the Faith into every aspect of the school day, with weekly Mass, daily visits to the Chapel, prayer throughout the day, Catechism classes, and teachings on the virtues. Even through all of this, I wanted to be able to share the Catholic Faith with my children more. The school did a tremendous job, but with homeschooling, I am able to partake in the Liturgical celebrations, the daily prayer, the daily Rosary at 3 PM, weekly Mass, Catechism classes, and the beautiful questions about God and heaven that come from a mind of child.
Homeschooling was a leap of faith for our family, but it has truly been rewarding. I will not pretend that it isn’t stressful at times, but the stressful moments are fewer than when our children were at the private school. I no longer feel like we are in a rat race. There is a simplicity to life now. I am quite a stickler when it comes to schoolwork, but when everything is finished for the day, the children have ample opportunities to be children and grow in relationships with their siblings, friends, and relatives. We have time for piano lessons, choir, soccer club, wrestling club, T-ball, a weekly co-op, zoo classes, and art classes. Learning does not only come from a book, but also by example and discovery. My non-school-age children have also thrived in this environment as they watch their older siblings learn and explore.
This may not always be our schooling method as the children grow, but for right now, it is serving us well. No one will ever find the perfect school and not every sibling will fit well in the same school. There are seasons of life and I now believe there are seasons of schooling. I am not a seasoned veteran of homeschooling, but I am grateful to have this opportunity with my children and to share the journey that brought us to an unexpectable destination.
Article written by Danielle M. Heckenkamp. Originally posted at ww.catholicmom.com on July 12, 2019.