Hi. I’m T.J., and I’m a homeschooling failure.
Well, that’s not TOTALLY true, but my wife and I did attempt homeschooling our eldest for her Kindergarten year. Once spring hit, we realized that God was not calling us to continue. We discerned our hearts out and reluctantly signed our kids up to attend school and, a year later, we are all happier for it.
If you are considering homeschooling your children, please take a look-see at the following questions with your spouse. They will help you decide if homeschooling is, indeed, how God has called you educate your children. These are the questions that we formulated after our hindsight turned 20/20- my hope is that they will help you see the light too.
1) What is your goal for your children?
All parents want their kids to succeed. We go to crazy lengths to make sure this happens, often forgetting that the kids themselves are not ours to control. Rather, they are individual souls destined to live forever in one realm of the afterlife or the other. As parents, we have a spiritual say in only one portion of their future – their salvation. We can put them in reading programs, math tutoring, and underwater basket weaving classes, but these are all icing on the cake. We are charged by God to accomplish one task- to lead them into discipleship with Him.
When your child was baptized, the priest asked you the following question:
“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
You said, “I do.”
So do it.
2) What other educational options are available where you live?
After one year of the whirlwind that homeschooling is, I came to the conclusion that my family was NOT called to homeschool. It was painful to give up because, as a professional teacher, I know that there is no better way to teach children than by giving them one-on-one instruction in a comfortable, faith-based setting, surrounded by love. I wanted the best for my children, so I thought homeschooling would give them “the best.”
It wasn’t until we came to full burnout that we decided to explore our other options. And so, we asked ourselves the following questions:
3) Can we afford Catholic schools?
For most families, the answer to this one is easy- No.
For other families, this question requires a slight sacrifice and/or some sort of budgeting superpower.
Still others can pay tuition for nine children without flinching.
My family belongs to the first category.
But let’s say your family is able to send your kiddos to Catholic schools. The next question you need to ask yourself is…
4) Are they dependable Catholic schools?
Catholic education doesn’t always equal sanctity or academic success. Catholic education has taken some serious leaps in its educational practices in the last two decades. Most are fueled by teachers who are overworked and underpaid. This creates a service aspect within their profession that illuminates their zeal for teaching in ways that other teachers simply cannot fathom. Catholic school teachers, in my humble opinion, are the true heroes of education because they do so much with so little. Their great love compensates for their debilitated paychecks.
If you are unable to pay that hefty tuition, the question you must then ask is…
5) Are public schools that bad?
If there is one organization that has received the cold shoulder most consistently from the American government in the past 20 years, the Department of Education might be it (public housing is right up there, too). The situation has turned so dire that half of the teachers who start their careers in public schools do not last longer than five years in the field. They are essentially asked to teach every child with the same level of attention that a homeschooling parent would give their own child. With 36 kids in the room and only 8 hours of instructions per contract, I say “fat chance.” Oh, and let’s not forget they’re given half the resources necessary to do so, to do it in half the time needed, and to receive payment below the poverty line as recompense. And let’s also not forget the mandatory graduate classes (which you have to pay for yourself) to take during the weekends and evenings in order to retain your teaching certificate.
That being said, the public system does have plenty of bright spots. Many offer themed educational settings that might just be the perfect fit for your child. For example, we send our own children to a public school that offers Chinese Immersion where children learn the curriculum in Mandarin language.
When we decided to send our kids to public school, we asked ourselves the following question…
6) What can they teach our kids that we cannot teach them in a homeschool setting?
My children are already bilingual as their mother is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico. So, we knew that we would never be able to teach them Chinese. We were also impressed with the district’s options for musical instrument instruction, offering both orchestra and band as options down the road. Neither my wife nor I can play a musical instrument, so the answer was clear: our kids were headed to public schools!
7) Can I homeschool some of their education?
While their school can teach them things we can’t, their public school does NOT have the ability to teach them their Catholic faith. That meant that we would (gladly) teach them Catechism.
We started looking for curriculum to help us teach them. We wanted something that would challenge them and ignite their faith in knowledge and zeal. We wanted Thomism and we wanted a service component. We wanted something quick, something that wouldn’t occupy huge chunks of time after they had already been in school for several hours. Finally, we wanted it to be fun, something they looked forward to learning.
Since nothing like that exists, we created our own curriculum: Tiny Thomists. We became intentional in our instruction and, in doing so, never really gave up homeschooling their religious instruction. In our house, we live Catholicism, we learn Thomism, and we love every minute of it.
One Final Note
EVERY parent is a homeschooling parent when it comes to the greatest subject to ever be taught: Catechism. We found out the hard way that we were not called to homeschool our children in their other subjects, at least not right now. But that doesn’t keep us from creating a solid, challenging, and nurturing Catholic environment for them to thrive in their faith.
Catholic parents, you have a huge decision to make when it comes to educating your children. Discerning whether or not to homeschool is a difficult task because it requires you to communicate openly, and measure your strengths, desires, availability, and management skills. Speak with your spouse about your discernment and weigh your options wisely. Most importantly, pray for the holy Spirit’s guidance so that you make the wisest decision possible for your family.
I will be praying for you too.