Starting Catholic Homeschooling

First thing: take a deep breath and calm down.

You are teaching a toddler their ABCs, not rocket science.

You’ve already taught them how to eat, drink, speak and at least attempt basic hygiene. You got this.

Yes, it’s overwhelming. Like the first week the baby was home wasn’t? (Assuming you are able to remember it as something beside “oh my gosh I am tired” and “BABY!”)

Kids expand to absorb all available resources. You expand to handle the kids. Good thing, too, or we’d all have singletons and the species would die out.

Second thing: the best time to start homeschooling is ten years ago. The second best time is now. Even if you can’t take the kids out of school yet– start teaching them.

Listen to what they say the teacher is saying or teaching, or worse what the other kids are doing, or saying, and what they are doing, saying or eating…there’s good chance that it’s entirely accurate, and will have you shaking your head. The things I accepted as normal still upset my mom when she runs into them. Kids don’t know any better than that what they see and do is normal.

If you don’t have kids yet, you can still think about it, plan out how you’ll do it– especially useful when doing things like picking a house. My brother’s family has a much higher income, a much smaller house, and a much higher house payment because they bought into a “really good” school district. It was Chinese-curse type interesting when his daughter was trying to explain her math homework over one Christmas break. You also want to look at the laws for your area in regards to homeschooling, use of school facilities, what kind of groups there are, what kind of people you and your spouse and the near relatives were as children– your offspring will probably be similar. (No big sports folks in our household, so far.) If there’s a homeschool conference in your area, consider walking around and checking it out.

Each kid is different, and I got lucky; my eldest was a bit too young to go to school the year she turned 5, so we did a test run, mostly to get the grandparents comfortable with the idea.

I started doing paperwork lessons, to go with the things we already had her doing online–, on a computer we attached to the TV, so she could work on fine motor control with the mouse and letter-recognition with the keyboard. We also had an old windows xp machine that was not connected to the internet and has a bunch of the games from those CDs that come for free with activity learning books, with our family name as the password. (School Zone and Scholastic are the big ones.)  Computers don’t mind repeating something five thousand times.

We joined HSLDA and made sure to follow the rules to the letter…and printed out the “no, you can’t come in without a warrant” card.

I am going to digress: Never give permission for a search, if they’re going to threaten abuse of power to get into your house, they’re going to abuse their power once they are in there. (This holds for everything else, incidentally- and I have been informed this by multiple law-enforcement, do not give permission!) If they are well-intentioned and following the rules, taking the steps to get legal permission for a search will protect them, too, while violating the legal requirements will make it possible for them to be fired.

Returning to the specific from that broad digression– each family is different; my husband and I are both Navy vet gamer geek conservative Catholics with an every-year-or-two spaced horde, uniform of blue jeans and printed T-shirts for me, whatever they want that fits and is decent for the kids (heavy on fairy-princess, unicorns and rockets or cowboys on t-shirts). Another family was of the “nice” liberal mainstream sort, their four kids are spaced three to five years apart, and they all dress attractively fashionable. One Catholic home school group leader is an immigrant from the Caribbean and they all dress like they are a really nice private Catholic school; another is a registered social worker who honest to goodness wears a denim jumper, and has a half-dozen perfectly groomed kids, the girls with golden braids and the boys with light brown crew-cuts. (Her hobby for stress relief is sewing, with a specialty in making outfits that play nicely with postpartum issue fixes; I sometimes think she plays up the archetype just to mess with people’s expectations.) There are only two families I know that have the classic homeschool van of doom, although there are a lot of minivans. Mostly bought because of the safety considerations. There’s folks who have “the only screen time is on Sunday afternoon and that’s got to be Inspirational” families, and there are folks (like me!) where 90% of the formal classwork is online. There are complete curricula, subject curriculums, state subject curriculums (Texas is nice) and “play it by ear” make your own curricula. The important question is does it work for the kid using it.

Each homeschool group is different. Hop on to facebook, ask around your parish; they might suit you, they might not. If you’re going to be using Catholic facilities, you’ll have to go through the VIRTUS program and it can be a pain to find a class, but it’s a breeze and actually has some decent threat-assessment tactics. I found it very similar to the anti-terrorism classes in the Navy. Don’t be afraid to LEAVE a group if they don’t fit, I’ve run into several that simply didn’t match our family culture.

Your kids don’t want to wake up in the morning?  So push the start of the day back a few hours.  Your kids early birds?  So get up and finish school by 10.  (We’ve done both of those on the same day.  Different kids, obviously.)  Your kid wants to wear PJs while doing lessons?  They can.  Your six year old wants to wear a pair of knit pants, plaid dress shirt, violently clashing houndstooth tie and a striped vest, then jump up and down in his chair while he’s doing second grade math?  He can.  (coughs) Your kid thinks they can get out of stuff by pretending not to know how to do it, when they just did it six times?  You can make them practice until they are doing it, correctly, every single time.  Your kid manages the first of 50 problems like it’s singing the ABCs?  You can cross out the pile of busy work.  Public school cannot do that, because they’ve got other students to deal with and a schedule.

Main thing is, don’t be afraid. You can do this.

Resources you can check out without needing a subscription:

Khan Academy


PBS Kids

Worksheet Works 


Yes, I was making a funny using both plurals for curriculum.

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