What Schools Can Teach Homeschoolers

Schools across the country are open. I know this because my local big box stores have huge layouts of pencils, rulers, paper and notebooks. The current trends of Hannah Montana and Batman are seen emblazoned on everything from clothes to lunchboxes. Near these displays, the stores have made copies of my local schools’ ‘Need to Buy’ lists. You know these lists, the ones letting the parents know what is and what is not needed or expected for each grade. On a recent trip for some groceries I picked up the lists of the schools my children would attend. Would, that is, if they weren’t homeschooled.

It was an enlightening experience taking a look at what local elementary, middle and high schools required. Now, admittedly, we homeschoolers can be a prideful lot, can’t we? After all, what can schools teach us about education? Did we not take our children from these same, said schools? Didn’t we do the necessary homework, so to speak, to realize homeschooling was best for our family? Why would we ever want to take advice from a system we have already rejected?

class.jpgMaybe we don’t, but it is fascinating to take a peek into what they are doing as I do the same. I will be actively schooling 6 children this year from 9th grade down to kindergarten; as a result I will have one in high school, one in middle school and four in elementary. Taking a look at these lists revealed both what we have in common and what we don’t. And while I may not want to use the same materials or duplicate their lessons plans there a few things that I (and other homeschoolers) ought to have in common before we begin our own school year.

Paper and pencils are on every list for every grade. I agree wholeheartedly here. Each child should have pencils to call their own and paper that is fresh and clean. New paper calls out for words, ideas and stories. A sharp pencil makes writing easier and there don’t seem to be many children who don’t love making marks on a paper. They may not be legible but they are there.

Notebooks or binders? Composition books or wire-bound? In my hometown, it depends on the teacher and the grade level. In my home, I have children of every stripe. Some prefer to use binders while one of my daughters loves the black and white marbles composition books and another prefers single subject notebooks. I let them choose, variety being the spice of life and homeschool.

The lists also include the to-be-expected crayons, colored pencils and markers. Elementary students need the crayons (12 pack only) and perhaps colored pencils depending on the students’ grade. Not a single middle-schooler needs crayons, just the colored pencils while the high schoolers are recommended both. No crayons in high school? Not allowed or not expected? What about art class (that is if the school still offers art class)?

Other expected, run-of-the-mill basics were seen on almost every list — the scissor-and-ruler variety. Higher grades needed high-level calculators in addition to compasses and grid paper. The list also included, depending on the grade, such things as index cards or glue and/or glue sticks. Some grades specify the color of pens and how many (five blue, one black and one in red — for correcting the many mistakes they will make I assume).

The rest of the lists was just as interesting. Some were very explicit as to, for example, the type of folder, how many and in what color. There was exacting detail in some grades in what was required. The lists of almost all of the grades asked for a specific number of tissue boxes (even down to brand and type), bottles of hand disinfectant, and paper towels. Some, oddly enough, required both pint and quart sized zip-close bags. Knowing that school budgets are really tight every where, even in my kitchen table school, I understand most of those requests except the baggies.

I also found the things that are not allowed very revealing. No “Trapper Keepers” or any type of zipper binders. No mechanical pencils or pencil boxes. Pencil bags, yes, pencil boxes, no. No offensive slogans and no alcoholic advertising. Again, the beer ads I can understand but what is the problem with Trapper Keepers? Are they are hazard to young people or it is the concern about what might be hidden behind the zipper?

My high schooler was eager to see that a lap-top is recommended for her grade and higher. The fact that this list came from the local office supply store selling the recommended lap-tops did not sway her from asking for one. I told her that she will get one — after I get one!

So, as a result of perusing the lists I was once again confirmed in my call to homeschool. Getting ready for school in my house will be less hectic knowing I don’t need to go out and buy two dozen tissue boxes. I am not against tissues in my house, but we’ve found that toilet paper works just as well in a pinch and hand disinfectant is also not needed as we are within walking distance of two bathrooms (no hall passes required).

However, while I am restocking on many of the same items listed, such as the paper and pencils already mentioned, I can’t help but wonder about my binder-loving 6th grader (and others like him) in a class that allows only three-subject wire-bound notebooks and file folders (two pocket, no prongs allowed). Is it possible that limits and restrictions on what kids use to learn might not affect how well they learn?

As I am not a complete snob, there are a few school ideas that I do plan on duplicating in my homeschool — almost exactly. First off, teacher planning days. These are essential to every good homeschool and I will readily admit that I enjoy taking off a Friday or Monday from actually teaching my kids to review my lesson plans (so to speak, as I don’t actually do formal lesson plans for each child). These are regularly scheduled days to make sure I am actually doing what I said I wanted to do. Ensuring I am staying on track helps guarantee my children will stay on track as well. And every kid enjoys an unexpected day off school. Hey, you might even want to plan one with another mom and make it a play day so you can have an hour or two at your desk alone.

Secondly, field trips are another essential. It is vital to everyone’s state of mind, attitude and stress level to take a trip out of the school (house) and see the world. Make a monthly trip to the park, a local museum or potato chip factory. Get out of the house once in a while, watch your kids learn from someone else, see them in action in public and be proud. Again, doing this with another family makes it more enjoyable but if you are alone in your town don’t let that stop you from calling the local police department and see if your kids can come in.

Conferences are the third requirement. The conferences between the principal (my husband) and myself are an important key to our happy homeschool. Be sure to make regular plans to date during the school year. Keeping the relationship you have with your spouse healthy and vibrant is crucial. You can talk about how the school and kids are doing, but I also think that talking about anything but the school and the kids is even more important!

And don’t forget the parent/teacher conferences. Seriously. Take time during the year to have a chat with your kids about how well they are doing, how proud you are of their work and where they need to improve. Get the principal involved in this conference as well. Hearing how proud both of you are will make your children beam (handing out gold stars is optional).

But also be brave enough to take a look at yourself with a parent’s eye. How would you measure up if you were not the parent but only your child’s teacher? What bad habits or even sin patterns do you display as a homeschooling parent that you would never accept from a teacher? Not easily admitted are they?

None to worry though because Jesus provides us as parents/teachers and children/ students with the truly, absolutely necessary supplies we need to make it through the school year. Be sure to add Confession and Mass to your “before the school year starts” list. Do an examination of conscience based on the school year and what sins you know always cause havoc around the table or desks. Make a plan to go to Mass (perhaps even Daily Mass) as a family and offer yourselves and your family up to a new school year. Commit yourselves to the protection of a few saints — St. Paul, in this his holy year or St. Thomas Aquinas and every homeschooler’s favorite mother/teacher St. Elizabeth Ann Seton — to watch over you and your children. With their help and protection, you will do just fine, even if all of your kids don’t have the required allotment of clear, plastic report covers and you have no reason to use highlighters.

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  • http://cradlerocker624.blogspot.com/ madhattertea

    I found this article very helpful.
    Thanks!
    Madeline

  • http://cradlerocker624.blogspot.com/ madhattertea

    oh…and plastic storage bags come in handy when you are doing lap books and you keep the information the child gathers on a subject in them until you put the lap book together. It’s very handy.

    madeline

  • DonnaMaria

    Thank you, Rachel! Excellent article. Makes you wonder where they are spending $10K and up per student in our public schools! The specifics are ridiculous–I sent my oldest to school before we started homeschooling in 1999. Don’t even think about getting your first-grader more than 12 crayons! Trying to show off, are you? I don’t miss it one bit. Zip-lock bags are great for manipulatives, crayons, colored pencils, little tiny toys, leapster game cartridges, and I recommend keeping gallon-sized ones in your car if you have little ones that tend to get car sick. No more explanation needed, right?! I also like the giant ones (2 gallon size) to keep books and other larger items clean in transport, or keep little kids’ stuff separate, or mittens clean and in one place… really, the handiest thing out there!

    God bless you,
    Donna

  • Ann

    What a disappointing article! As a former teacher of 8 years and now a stay-at-home mother considering homeschooling, I was mislead by the title of your article with expectations that it might yield greater depth of knowledge regarding the many approaches schools take in passing along knowledge and forming children’s character. A better title for this article should have been: “What the supply lists at our local big box store can teach homeschoolers” Next time: talk to some teachers or administrators of some good schools to find out more about the good things these skilled, experienced professionals have to offer homeschoolers!

  • catholic_mom

    I am also disappointed and embarrassed, as the familiar homeschooler snobbiness come across. Rachel, your “binder loving 6th grader” would do just fine with the required spirals, and I hope would be appreciative of the abundant blessing of having any education at all. I find it hard to imagine the learning/creativy of Haitian children would be “hindered” by using spirals. Rational decisions are behind the school supply requests — believe it or not, even public teachers have a modicum of intelligence.

    It seems one of the biggest lessons homeschoolers need to learn from public schools is to loose the “holier than thou” attitudes.

  • elkabrikir

    I echo catholic_mom and Ann, however, having heard Mrs Watkins speak, I think she was trying to be funny. Because of the title I thought I was going to read a substantive article.

    I schooled my children in a variety of ways over a 20 year period and have always tried to meet the needs of each particular child and the family at that particular moment in time.

    Currently I have 5 children in public schools, 1 in homeschool, 3 “little ones”, and 2 in college.

    Last year, I flipped the schooling options (5 in homeschool, 1 at public school).

    I have always been thankful for excellent teaching strategies that some institutional settings have modeled for me. I learned the pedagogy of teaching reading and math to young children, for instance. I learned about leveled readers. I learned that children crave schedule and organization. I learned that students like an audience for their projects and appreciate unbiased recognition from adults other than their parents.

    I hold homeschooling in the highest regard and will probably be a homeschooling mom for another 14 years at least. But, I have found a certain arrogance among homeschoolers that is repellent to me and other holy Catholic families who do not chose to home school. From my experience, many homeschoolers seem proud of their pride too (even when done with a touch of humor as in the article.)

    I always tell people that I homeschool for the positive benefits derived to my family not as a rejection of parochial or public education. We didn’t have negative experiences anywhere. Many teachers other than myself have been a blessing to my children. I am a better teacher from what I have learned. Because I have the right to homeschool, I am empowered to do what is best for my children regardless of where they school.

    Maybe Rachel could write another article that addresses the concern of some of us. Or, I’ll do it as a reply.

  • elkabrikir

    One more thing: Obviously institutional or home settings have different requirements. Mutual respect is in order. I want my right to homeschool to be respected and not mocked.
    thanks

  • lebowskice

    I’ve been teaching for many years and our Catholic schools are on the cutting edge. Most, if not all of our teachers have Master Degrees, and offer the best to young people both in Catholic and Public education. “Binders…pencils” For the past 13 years every student in my Catholic school receives a wireless laptop, each class for the past 5 years has been equipped with a smart board and technology is a must for the marketplace you’re equipping your child for. Most public schools have the same. Home school ‘snobery’ is everywhere and God forbid you don’t home school your child with most of the homeschoolers I know. Often they model the worst type of behavior as they judge others. The, ‘we’re better than you’ attitude will burn off, perhaps, in purgatory. Just some thoughts.

  • MichelleGA

    I read the article from beginning to end twice because the first time through it I felt uncomfortable. The second time through it, I was still uncomfortable because of the way the subject was handled. First the schools are slapped because of their supply lists, and then they are sugared because they take breaks, hold planning days, take field trips, and hold conferences. I think the entire slapping sould have been left out, and then there would have been some benefit from the article for new homeschoolers.

    I am homeschooling 7 of our 10 children. Last year was my first year, and I was so excited about it, but I was clueless about the snobbery that exists among homeschoolers. It makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed when moms start talking “us vs. them”. We used public education before homeschool, and I have rec’d such kindness and support from some of the staff at the public school. One teacher in particular stops over and GIVES me items that she thinks we could use, and I know these things have come from her own pocketbook, not the county’s.

    When people find out that I’ve brought all the kids home, they want to know “Why?”, “Is there something wrong with the school?”, “Did you have a bad experience?”, “What happened?”. My answer is “It’s the right time for us now to do this” because that’s it. What led up to this being the right time for us is just our information. I do not want to do the “us vs. them” thing. I wish it would stop.

    It is petty to care at all what is on a school’s supply list if the information is to be used against the school rather than to give one ideas of items one may like to use.

  • momof8

    I homeschooled many of my eight children for a total of 10 years ending last school year. This year all of my school aged children are in public schools. This will be the fifth year of public school for my 2 oldest boys who are in high school. I too find revolting the attitudes of some of the Catholic homeschoolers who live near me. In their efforts to shelter their children from evil and temptation to sin, they have pushed away people like we who really are striving for holiness and hoping for heaven someday, just as they are. There is a real lack of charity among many of these who happen to be Latin Mass only Catholics. Conversations often revolve around what is right and wrong about this or that liturgy. These conversations are often with a sarcastic edge or an arrogant laugh which suggests that they really have the scoop on “how things should be” and holiness. I heard a wonderful priest once say that just because we are right about something, such as the abuses of the liturgy, doesn’t mean that we are holy.

    Like MichelleGA, I have received so much support and kind words from the teachers and staff at the public school. The teachers we have encountered have our children’s best interests in mind. They have at times commended me on the job I did with our kids in schooling them. I realize Rachel is trying to be funny, but it smacks of that same arrogance and “in your face” attitude that has driven me away in part from homeschooling. Our kids have had super academic, musical, theatrical and social opportunities at school. They also are able to witness to their friends about living in a large Catholic family.

    I would encourage the prideful homeschoolers to stop living in fear and assuming the worst about school outside of the home. God is bigger than the fears and the things that can’t be controlled. Know, too, that those of us who choose other schooling options for our kids are not throwing the kids into hell. We have prayerfully determined what we hope is best for our family. We will fight for their souls even though we are not controlling everything they see and hear. We’re all in this struggle of raising faithful Catholic children together. Let’s cheer each other on and hope for the best.

  • vtanco

    I have three kids, and homeschooled the eldest for 5 years. We have also been in different types of schools. Currently the middle one is in a public charter school and the youngest in a Catholic school. One of the blessings we have found with the public school is that our child is discovering a vast world of backgrounds and opinions out there, and she is holding fast to her beliefs especially when challenged. In fact, she has even engaged others in conversation, especially on the pro-life issue, which I find admirable. If your kids have a solid foundation, I believe they can be a light to others in a dark world. I, too, thought the article would go deeper than supply lists, and am glad others echoed my sentiments. There is truly a lot we can learn from each other. I was very skeptical about the public school, but God has brought blessings from that experience, and I will not be so quick to degrade anymore.

  • PartyOfNine

    It is comforting to know that I am not the only mother that observed and experienced what the above mothers have expressed so well. I had homeschooled for a total of nine years with some children at home while others were in a Catholic school and still others in a public school. Currently, all are in public school: 1 elementary, 2 middle, 1 high school. Oh, can’t forget my Kindergartner…at home using Mother of Divine Grace. And two yet to be formally educated.

    I suppose much of what we experience is based on the group we are part of. Having moved several times during our h/s’g years we got to experience some different attitutdes: your-not-included secret behavior, you’re-having-marital-problems-I-don’t-want-my-kids-playing-with-your-kids attitude, and my favorite, is-your-family-as-Catholic-as-our-family, or how ’bout, “Is that a TV I hear in the background?”

    We all are trying to do our best to form our children and what God asks of my family is not necessarily we He is asking for your family…homeschool, public school, Catholic school.

    I LOVED the years that we homeschooled but life can change. I got to receive a nice consoluation from God when I put my oldest in public school. One of her eighth grade teachers said that Catholics worship Mary. My daughter replied to this erroneous notion with what Catholics actually believe, telling me later that she was saying to herself, “What did my mom always tell me, what did my mom always tell me.” What a great joy for me to hear that and I knew then, that she had been placed there to be a light and would continue to have other opportunities to be a witness to Christ, His Church and the culture of life.

    I guess our family is more mainstream than others, this is probably why I like the Opus Dei movement so much. It can be difficult to walk in humility but that is what we are all called to do. I trust God to humble us when we need it and exalt us when we least expect it.

  • Leila

    These comments are surprising…. Is there a little bit of “piling on” here? I reread the article and I can’t figure out why everyone is so upset. I have three children in public/charter schools, one in an excellent and Magisterially-faithful Catholic school, one in our homeschool and two “little ones.” I am not a homeschool snob, and I don’t think the author of this article is, either. I understood everything she wrote here, and did not take any of it as snobbery. In fact, she was quite humble about it all.

    I took this from the article: It is a benefit of homeschooling that we can tailor all things, including the oft-overwhelming requirement of school supplies, to each individual child. This is a blessing! To say so is not to degrade and write-off the other forms of schooling.

    As one who has often been stressed by the long and precise list of school supplies now handed out (at a school that I support and recommend!), I thought the article was insightful.

    Blessings,
    Leila

  • queenofpeace

    I’m so glad to be able to contribute to this forum. I’m a young mother of 2 who has felt called to home school my children, not because I feel the parochial schools are inadequate, but just because I feel called to do so. I’m also black, which makes me a minority. I can’t even begin to tell you the sadness myself and my husband have felt over the discrimination that exists within the homeschooling world. We are thinking of moving to a county where there are more black homeschooling families so we can find some place we feel welcome. The snobbery is real, and very, very, sad. I have a lot of friends with kids in public school, and these are some the most well adjusted children I have ever come met. I also have friends with kids that are homeschooled and well….

    The choice to homeschool or not is a “choice” and really as far as I’m concerned a calling. However, different strokes for different folks. We must always remember that the most important thing is to raise our children with good values, so that no matter where they go, they will be fine.

    One final note of warning for all; a few years ago, I was priviledged to hear Fr Benedict Groeshel speak at a home schooling conference and he said I quote: ” If you try to raise an angel, you will end up with a demon.” He directed this especially to homeschoolers and I will never forget this. Homeschooling is not a place to cocoon our children from reality, but a place to nurture them and prepare them for the battles which they will inevitably face ahead of them. Much grace and peace to you all.

  • mkochan

    One of least legitimate criticisms of an article or a book is that the author did not write the article or book you wanted him or her to write.

    It is particularly lame for a professional in a field to fault someone who is not a professional in said field for not writing the same article that that professional would write.

    If someone who homeschools offended you, that is no reason to attribute that offense to a complete stranger who was kind and generous enough of her time and tranparent enough about her own expereinces with her children to contribute a thoughtful and thought-provoking article to CE. Go thou and do likewise if you have so much valauable information to share.

    Queenofpeace, are you talking about racial discrimination?! If so, that is truly horrible and few things are less Catholic! I’d love for you to write about that for us. If you feel you can, please contact me.

    Mary Kochan (Senior Editor, Catholic Exchange mkochan@catholicexchange.com)

  • kirbys

    I know that when I first began homeschooling (9 years ago), after moving and having had our first two in an (excellent) public school for a couple of years, I was terrified! I was overly concerned, though we knew we were called to at least try it for that year, that the kids would miss something, or I would screw it up somehow! I remember feeling very anxious when I saw those lists at the stores, and questioning, many times, our decision. Perhaps Rachel’s article was directed with that in mind–someone with almost scrupulous anxiety–it’s OK, it won’t be “perfect,” don’t sweat the small stuff. (Our oldest 2 are now in Catholic HIgh school.) I think there is a unique kind of defensiveness that can build up in a homeschooling mom, and it sometimes manifests itself in a bad way.

    I’ve heard Rachel speak before, too, and know her a bit, and she is not at ALL insular and snobbish. I also heard that talk from Father Groeschel, Queenofpeace–wasn’t it awesome?! He is absolutely right. We are raising adults, not children! They need to go out and engage the world–in all settings, when God calls them to do so.

    Having a child is a gift. Passing on the faith is a gift. The awesome responsibility of choosing their schooling is a gift. Thank God we live in this country where we can make these choices. I guess that along with these choices comes an even greater temptation to pride regarding our choice, and excessive judgement when looking at others.

    PS Sorry, one more comment. We had a tough time with a priest in an overseas parish, and I made the mistake of speaking to my husband about it when our (very young) children were around. I will never forget the day we were driving home from Mass, I mentioned something about the priest, and my little 5yo oldest child in the back piped up in a scared voice, “Mom, does Father so and so hate us?” Wooooow, talk about a massive body slam from God! No more slicing and dicing Mass and/or priests for me!

  • c-kingsley

    To those of you who commented on a “holier than thou” attitude from homeschoolers —

    Haven’t you all noticed how much we fallible humans like it when other people make the same decisions we do? It validates our decisions, and shows how right we are. How much we hate it when people pick a different way, which suggests that our way might not be the RIGHT way?

    Homeschoolers face a tremendous amount of vitriol from public school advocates. I have met some public school teachers who can’t even have a rational discussion about it, they got flaming angry just to hear that we weren’t bringing our children to the nearest school. Have you noticed the newspaper and magazine articles suggesting that homeschoolers must be child abusers trying to hide their children, and we need laws to bring them all in for psychological evaluations?

    Given this environment, cut the homeschoolers some slack. They’re doing a hard job and getting abused for it.

    On the other hand, let’s all agree to just own our own decisions. We have chosen the best way for our family to educate our children. You may come to a different decision for your family. Even though I think it would be absolutely horrible for MY children, I promise to take a deep breath, and remember that you are their parents and you must have some good reasons for your decision. (And I am not your father and do not deserve an explanation from you for your decision.)

    (Except that you are committing a horrible sin to send your kids to public school. Just kidding!!! ;-)

  • Daughter of the King

    I have to confess that I was totally shocked when I started to read responses and read “familiar homeschool snobbiness” and losing the “holier than thou” attitudes. Not a very Christian response even if one was a bit offended by the article. Jesus asks us to ‘turn the other cheek’ did He not?

    He also said that a house divided will fall. We as Catholics should be supporting each other and respecting each other. Snobbery has got to be one of the capital sins against brotherly love. And it goes both ways. The accuser may be just as much a snob. “Take the plank out of your own eye before the splinter out of your brothers.” To accuse someone of being a snob is also a judgement and that too is wrong. “Judge not lest you be judged.”

    We’re all on this journey together. Isn’t it funny how Jesus warned us to expect to be persecuted but He didn’t tell us it would be from those who are walking the same walk as us! Then again He did when He said He would be the cause of division between mother and daughter, father and son, etc. But we’re all suppose to be of “One Body”. It doesn’t seem right that Catholics are tired of other Catholics trying their best to live holy lives! If we can’t look to our own Catholic community for support in this post-Christian society then we don’t stand a chance.

    “It is not good for man to be alone.” After I read some of the responses criticizing this article that is what I felt – very much alone. I too am a homeschooling mom and had no idea that other Catholic moms would look at me and say, “familiar homeschool snobbiness” because I might be shy or didn’t respond to them the way they wanted me to. Or accuse me of having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude because I’m doing my best to raise my children as I believe God is asking me to.

    If anything when it comes to homeschooling moms the one sense I get is that they are living with a lot of pressure and guilty and fear that they’re not doing a good enough job and that maybe they’re short changing their children of a good education. They live under intense outside pressures as well. The fear of failure is great. They know all too well that their childrens’ futures depend on their choices. They need all the support we can give them. Does that sound like snobbery? No, it sounds like moms (or parents) who desperately need support and community.

    Some of us might feel like the public schools just aren’t an option and there are no Catholic schools within an hour of our homes. I know in our public system the government is pushing the homosexual ajenda heavily and we as parents don’t know just how much exposure our children are getting. How can we fight it when our children are being bombarded with such evils? Expecially when they’re at their most impressionable ages. Seeds are planted that the kids don’t even know of!

    I liked what c-kingsley said, “let’s all agree to just own our own decisions. We have chosen the best way for our family to educate our children.” I think if we were all sure and comfortable with our decisions then there would be no sense of snobbery. We would be at peace with our decisions and not threatened by anothers.

  • proudmomma

    Rachael, as a veteran homeschooler, I found your (at most)“tongue-in-cheek” assessment of the September hoopla to be entertaining and insightful. And then I read the comments and thought “Whoa….there’s a little animosity here!!” And the irony itself would be knee-slapping funny to me if indeed it weren’t so sad!! Sometimes I think it’s the very attitude of some people towards homeschoolers …the one that implies “who do they think they are” (we are parents exercising our God-given rights to be the primary educators of our children)/ “they are not capable” (even though we engage in a one-on-one tutorial with each child, able to identify individual learning styles, tailor a curriculum accordingly, while assessing their uniqueness in aptitude, personality, ability)/ “their kids will be social misfits” (despite that the facts show that homeschoolers intermix well across the age spectrum)/ “they think they are better than us” (when we are just trying to hold our heads high despite a barrage of insults, accusations, and doubts. Have I been out of the stream so long (we homeschooled from ’92-’02) that the tide has turned and homeschooling is really accepted as a mainstream alternative?? Maybe it’s a little more acceptable, but by and large, homeschoolers are still on trial.

    If you live in a community where friends, family, neighbors, parishioners and the institution itself has been totally supportive of your homeschooling efforts, then please…praise God….but don’t hold your breath. We found barricades on EVERY one of those fronts. If you’ve dabbled in and out of homeschool/public school and have found acceptance and success, then I commend you…and consider yourself blest. If you feel that having your children in an institutionalized setting is the best way to go, I respect your decision (however, once God was removed from the pubic schools, I’d ask you to elaborate on that, because the liberal agenda that I’ve studied and researched in the school system runs contrary to Catholic teaching in many ways).

    Let’s agree that we all come from different experiences and circumstances….suburban, rural, metro, inner city, small town. Some of us don’t have a Catholic school nearby; some schools maybe equipped with the latest technology and the best teachers, but that certainly is not the case in most situations. So to those of you who were so indignant as to have Rachael repent in the purgatorial fires, “Shame on you!!” How can anyone possibly know what experiences have colored her world. And she was being accused of things she didn’t even say. Attributing your bad experiences to her were totally misguided. Here’s what I got from the article. It’s nice to not have to stress out over school supplies (I mean, when Target allocates as much space for school supplies as it does for Christmas decorations, it’s a bit overdone….don’tcha think??).. And one of the benefits of homeschooling is allowing the kids some personal choice in picking out supplies (not a bad thing, is it??) and keeping it simple. Here’s an ironic bite…:
    the schools teach the kids to make “good choices” about whether or not to use drugs….or whether or not to use contraceptives……but they aren’t allowed to choose the color of their folders. Am I wrong? Just a little tongue-in-cheek humor, but kinda true. To call a spade a spade is hardly arrogant. That being said, I understand the differences in the two schooling scenarios and each dictates its own needs. But I recall when I was in first grade (a long time ago)…72 kids in my classroom, headed by one lovely nun, Sr. Mary Kenneth. We needed scissors and crayons (jumbo or regular): a box of AT LEAST (more selection for the more creative) 16 colors (my mom saved the mimeographed letter). Chubby pencils were supplied. Quite a contrast to today’s lists. America’s graduation rate has dropped from number 1 in the world 40 years ago, to number 21 today…and I just heard that 25% of Californians drop out. We’re dealing with some big issues here; overall, on a large scale, the educational system is failing our young people. Just google the internet and read the stats. I don’t think it’s un-Christian to report the facts. However, I also understand that there are schools that far exceed standards and you are veery blest if you have that opportunity.

    When we decided to homeschool, although we had a variety of reasons, we were truthful in out mantra, “It’s what God is calling us to do and we believe it is what is best for us.” If anyone placed any innuendo on that, it came from their slant not ours. The answer was vague, intentionally. But admittedly, if any of the alternatives were better than our choice to homeschool, then we wouldn’t have homeschooled. There’s an inherent truth there.

    In our set of circumstances, the closest Catholic school was 35 miles away, so when we chose not to use the services of the public school, our only option was to homeschool. May I interject that as we started our journey, I contacted not only the bishop, but also the principal of that Catholic school that was 35 miles away. When I contacted the bishop, it was in response to an article I read in a Catholic magazine. It reported on a survey of bishops in the U.S……and only TWO diocese had favorable attitudes towards homeschoolers. In summary, homeschoolers were viewed as a threat. I just asked for a further explanation from our bishop, citing the article…no response…not even an acknowledgement of my inquiry (so maybe he was too busy). When I contacted the principal of the school, I requested that in some way, maybe we could participate in some of the extracurricular activites…speakers/special Masses etc…volunteering financial support in whatever would be appropriate. After no response, I wrote another letter, and again I received no response. I could think of a dozen reasons why they didn’t respond…but a little honesty…and a little acknowledgement would have been nice. And so the wall began. So my experience was not that I thought I was better than the Catholic school system, my experience was that the Catholic establishment didn’t even acknowledge my existence! That aside, some parishioners snubbed us; others volunteered comments like, “I really think your boys are great, but really think it’s wrong that you homeschool.” I bit my lip, and told them they were entitled to their opinion. But it hurt…another brick in the wall.

    Rachael, I admire your courage and confidence, not to be confused with what some people interpret as haughty pride/arrogance. And I think your sense of humor will serve your family well. I hope I read you correctly. To make lesson plans for 6 children, who have different personalities, interests and learning styles, across all the different core subjects on a hair string budget is no easy feat. Your pay is their success. Academically, my older son is working on his PHD in computer science; the younger one graduated with a double major in marketing/transportation logistics in 3 ½ years. I’ve been paid quite well…and with God’s graces along the way, every step of the way, we made it!

    My older son was the only one the NW quadrant of Iowa in 25 years to get a National Merit Scholarship (I didn’t research it any farther back)…that’s the upper 2% in the nation. When the local newspaper refused to print the announcement, I addressed the issue. After they edited out, “homeschooler”, they printed it. That same newspaper readily published a student editorial (with atrocious grammar) singling out my younger son (on yeah…first name only). It argued that homeschoolers (ie, my son was the only one at the time) should not be allowed to attend the prom (despite our support of fundraisers and donations) because he didn’t attend class meetings (the writer thought it was unfair that they put all sorts of time into planning the prom, and he didn’t…a great lesson in tolerance and charity). Yes, he went to the prom with a date, but avoided the after prom party. Would you feel welcome?? We volunteered services at the beginning of the year; we were never contacted to help with anything. He was an Academic All-Stater (dual-enrolled for sports), but the school refused to post his picture with all the other all-staters, because he was homeschooled. Their pockets were wide open though, when they received the prorated federal fund allotment for dual-enrolled homeschoolers. Although we requested it, the school never informed us of the athletic physicals given to students as a free service by the community physicians…we paid full price. Although my son was the star player on the basketball team (we did have a great open-minded coach), we sat by ourselves at games….not by choice. Oh, we got a friendly nod of acknowledgement, but no one really wanted to be associated with us wierdos. Brick by brick, it became the wall of “us vs. them”… Did I go around telling people that they should homeschool? No. Did I ever tell anyone that I disapproved of them sending their kids to the public school? No. Our school system could have been great and our choice to homeschool might have just been better for us…..or our school system could have stunk and so the choice to homeschool just might have been better for us. No one ever asked; they made assumptions. Some people could have cared less. But why were we treated that way? Were they jealous? Did they feel threatened? Or was it that we just didn’t follow the crowd? There’s lots more that occurred over our ten year journey. Not everyone has a favorable attitude towards homeschooling…not everyone is speaking from the same experiences.

    Of the 40-some families in our homeschool support group, frankly I thought they were some of the most humble people I knew…very involved in their churches…very involved in civic duty…did mission work…adopted special needs kids…praising God in everything…good and bad. Oddly, we became quite involved with that Evangelical support group. As Catholics, we were the black sheep there too, but we were accepted and we were usually able to focus more on our spiritual similarities than our differences. And they were a blessing in that it drove us deeper into our own Catholic faith when we were challenged. And in God’s perfect timing, we finally found some other Catholic homeschoolers and added that group to our agenda. We drove the 90 miles periodically so the boys could have some real friends in those important teen years…friends who shared their same values and religious beliefs. If making our kids a priority 24/7…and that’s what is becomes/an obsession of sorts…if that makes us arrogant, then I guess I was guilty. We didn’t homeschool to win a popularity contest. We homeschooled to give the best academic, spiritual and social opportunities to our sons.

    But when people assume the worst about you, and you’re under a microscope for any sign of failure, when people resent your choice…when people challenge your integrity, question your ability…when you’re up against sarcasm…………maybe it’s a human response to set yourself away from others. Actually, we didn’t have to set ourselves apart from others; it was done for us. Maybe arrogance…or what is perceived as arrogance… is a response, not an initiating action. And maybe it’s simply an attempt to hold your head high when you ’re drowning in a sea of negativity from the outside, when on the inside the blessings are astoundingly obvious for which no one else will give you credit. Ignorance can lead to a lot of false assumptions …and the proof is in the pudding. We tried hard to keep our eyes on God.

    God has been very instrumental in everything my sons have achieved, and they acknowledge that. He continues to bless them everyday, and they acknowledge that. His graces are astounding, and they acknowledge that. They are chaste and will remain that way until marriage. God has prepared 2 wonderful God-centered young ladies for them and I am so humbled to have my prayers answered in such abundance. My sons are not cafeteria Catholics; they have studied and understand their faith well, adhering to the Magesterium. Now that they are older, we are friends and mutually respect each other. They are socially well-adjusted. They have their own Christian band and have produced their own CD…they write their own music and have their own ancillary recording business. They are active in the church. They know how to have fun without caving to negative peer pressure. They are very active in the church…liturgists, lectors, Bible study, pro-life, mission work. I’m not saying or even implying that these same qualities could not be cultivated in a schoolroom setting, but how many reading this assumed that I did. Am I proud of them? Yes. I know though, that what we have was accomplished through our homeschooling and i praise God for holding us up along the way. It afforded us numerous opportunities that were not possible in OUR public school setting. I’m grateful for it all. Overcoming adversity promotes growth. And I found great joy in being home with my kids, which was contrary to a lot of others who couldn’t wait for summer vacation to end and have school begin.

    Rachael’s article was pretty innocent. Read what she wrote, not what she didn’t write. What she didn’t write may simply be your assumption and your inflection. But on the other hand, homeschoolers have a magnified threshold to succeed…for the sake of their own children…and for the sake of those that follow in their footsteps. If the public school system had the same threshold, maybe America wouldn’t be 21st in the world when it comes to graduation…and if that is an arrogant comment, I’m guilty. I think it would be interesting to follow some homeschool graduates and see what is happening in their life biographies. It just may put to rest some of the misconceptions, accusations, and disparities. Afterall, it’s not the process that’s most important; it’s the results.

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