Homeschool Q and A

Join me in a Homeschool Question and Answer Session on Monday, July 13th at 2:00 pm on my Instagram (IGTV). I have been receiving many questions about our homeschool experience, our transition from a private Catholic school several years ago, and what curriculum(s) we love! Hope to see you there!

http://www.instagram.com/dmheckenkamp

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool

There are seasons in life and now I believe there are seasons in schooling.

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.

  1. 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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Self-Confidence

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.

  1. 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.

The Importance of Family Time

Put your family as a priority and everything else will quickly fall into line.

As we reach summer, it is that time of year when we all need to take a step back and examine more than just our life, but the lives of those around us. The school supplies fill the store shelves, the emails are flood with clothing sales, the required school paperwork is due, and dates for fall activities must now be added to the calendar, but there is something even more important than all of this! We must covet and adjust our schedules to enjoy those last weeks of summer with those we love and devote our lives to our family.

Family dinners were always a huge part of my childhood. My brothers and I may have missed a few in high school, in exchange for our sports and after-school clubs, but looking back, I wish we hadn’t. At the time the sports, clubs, friends, and part-time jobs seemed important, but in the grander scheme of things, they were not. My mom always said, “Be kind to your brothers. Friends will come and go, but you will always have your siblings.” She was right. There is nothing greater than the bond of a family. There will always be moments of hardship and disagreement, but we cannot let those become the norm. Those times of suffering are natural to human life, but our focus should always remain in support of the family.

My husband and I strongly focus our attention on family time. This doesn’t mean we have to be together all the time, because this isn’t possible with a large family. We find time during the small moments: dinner, working together as a family while fixing the house or landscaping, or having meaningful conversations on the way to a sport practice. All of these make a difference. If we want to thrive and learn to bond as a family, we must put away the distractions – whether that’s homework, cell phones, or work papers. The distractions are different for every person, and should always take a back seat when it comes to family time.

For us, family time always includes Sundays. They are a God-given day of rest that we should all be thankful for and take advantage of them. Each Sunday may look a bit different, but overall, it is quality time spent with our children. Whether getting together with extended family for a game of soccer or baseball in the backyard, watching the Packers, taking naps after enjoying brunch, or reading a saint story before bed, these are the times the children will always remember. I have very fond memories of my Sundays as a child, and I hope to continue sharing the importance of this valuable time with my children.

This world is busy, but it up to the parents to find what keeps the family grounded. We know what our children need, and often it is spending time with the family to confirm love. It might be as simple as kneeling down to say the Rosary every evening after dinner. Venerable Patrick Peyton said, “A family that prays together, stays together.”

It’s important to love and learn from our family members. If we don’t know the members of our immediate family, then we aren’t truly living. These are the people who will be there for us through thick and thin, even if it takes a while to get over last year’s family reunion, they are still family.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you spend time together as a family? What has worked and what hasn’t when juggling busy schedules? How do you create an experience that not only allows, but forces you to understand and learn more about each other? Are you searching for a consistent family activity that will grow your bond?

It might take a while to find your family’s “thing,” and sometimes if you have been gifted with a friend who is like family then you are truly blessed to open your circle and to grow in love. Continue searching, and eventually you will find what brings your family joy and you won’t want to let it go. It will be worth giving up some of the parties, the overtime at work, lunches with friends, and even the addicting Instagram stories because your family is where you can be yourself and where you can rejuvenate for the upcoming week.

Put your family as a priority and everything else will quickly fall into line.

Originally published on August 9, 2019 on Catholicmom.com