Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting Started Homeschooling

In response to some questions I got after Mass the other day, I thought I would post part of the answers here. The questions I get most often are:

What kind of curriculum do you use?
Where do you get your schoolbooks?
How do you do it???

When we started homeschooling 14 years ago, we were amazed at the amount of resources available. We went to a NACHE (National Association of Catholic Home Educators) convention in Maryland that first year and saw a huge room filled with vendors. Dh had been afraid that we would have to cobble together all the resources ourselves. I don't know, like, teach out of an encyclopedia? That is absolutely possible if that's the kind of person you are, or if you have serious budget issues. A good encyclopedia and a good library can provide an excellent education! However, there are amazing resources out there that are actually designed specifically for homeschooling.

It's been so long, that I can't even remember how we actually started, or what we used, for the most part. I know we started the Monday following KT's graduation from our parish kindergarten! She was actually excited to get started, although I must add for the sake of new homeschoolers, that we spent a full year de-programming her from the school mentality. So, if you're pulling your kids out of school, expect a year of adjusting and getting used to the new system. Especially the fact that Mom is now the teacher. I can't tell you how many times she told me that "Miss So-and-So did it this way!" I had to constantly reinforce the message that I'm the Mom (i.e. the Boss) AND the teacher, so we do it MY way.

It has been my experience, both personal and through observation of other families, that discipline is necessary for homeschooling. That might be one reason people often comment on how well-behaved the homeschooled kids are. Not that I have any illusions of being a perfect parent, or a perfect disciplinarian, or having all the answers, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's just that I have seen first-hand over the years that a lot of parents allow the school system to discipline their children and since they see them for only a few hours a day, they need to do very little themselves. Then, when they bring the kids home to homeschool, they find that they have practically no authority over their own children.

I'll even go so far as to say that the same thing is occurring in my own family. Not that I don't have authority over my children who are in school, because even though they're over 6 feet tall, they know we're in control (having established that early on), but that most of the discipline they are receiving at this time comes from their school. They're away from home 12 hours a day and I really just see them at dinner before they go do their homework. I'm fortunate that they are in a solid Catholic school that supports our values and reinforces everything we've tried to instill in them, otherwise, they'd be back home in a heartbeat.

This post was supposed to be about curriculum choices, but I guess the Holy Spirit had other ideas....

Discipline is a huge issue and homeschoolers are forced to develop self-discipline (Mom and children!), and parental authority. Many homeschoolers give up, or never even get started, because of discipline problems. Homeschooling will bring to the forefront any issues you have in this area! If you have any such concerns, I highly recommend going to see the Doctor. Dr. Ray Guarendi is my go-to guy for discipline questions. His books are awesome. His conference talks are better. He'll have you rolling on the floor, laughing, with tears in your eyes. He's a solid Catholic, but he's also experienced. Unlike some parenting experts who have 2 children, he has 10, mostly adopted, many with special needs or challenges. I sold books for him at a couple of conferences and he's incredible. I'm so excited that he'll be coming to speak to our Torch group in August!!!!!

I guess I'll get to the curriculum questions next time. This post was obviously from the "I could never homeschool; my kids drive me crazy" category. We're still not perfect and we never will be, but we're a heckuva lot better than we would be if homeschooling hadn't forced us to be better parents!

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