If You Want to Fail at Home Schooling . . .KIMBERLY HAHN
Home schooling is an opportunity to prepare our children for their life's work. What a privilege to spend a quantity of quality time together. But there are things that can make home schooling a nightmare and guarantee failure. Here are 14 of them.
taking instruction from Kimberly
. . don't make time for God. You can't take time for prayer or Mass if you want
to do a good job home schooling.
When we focus on the Lord
first, we have greater peace and more energy to do everything else. When we spend
time in prayer and Mass, we regain perspective: We become heavenly minded enough
that we are earthly good. We submit our schedule, goals, and commitments to the
Lord, believing that we will receive all the grace we need to do His will that
day. Everyone in our family needs this grace. The years are few that we can decide
for our children that they must participate in devotions or attend daily Mass
with us. Let's not miss the opportunity to strengthen the whole family!
. . disregard your spouse's thoughts and feelings on the subject. Just plough
ahead; he or she will catch up.
As parents, we are the primary
educators of our children and together we are responsible for our children's formal
education. We discern the best plan through prayer and information about home
schooling. It's a team effort, needing full support of both parents.
. . make your children a priority ahead of your spouse. There'll be years to spend
with your spouse later.
Marriage is our vocation. Though teaching
and caring for children may take the lion's share of our time right now, we can't
neglect the primary relationship in our family: our marriage. Our children thrive
when they see how much we love our spouse. And if we don't nurture our marriage,
we won't be prepared to enjoy our time together when our children are no longer
- . . . remember: It's Harvard
or bust! Academics, not well-rounded Catholics, is the goal.
statistics prove the academic superiority of home schooling tutoring is
always the most efficient form of education. But what is our goal for our child?
St. Paul says, "'Knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1).
There are brilliant atheists who don't give glory to God. Our first priority is
children who have a heart for God. Secondarily, we will provide the best academic
formation we can. We don't excuse poor quality education under the guise that
training in the faith is much more important than book learning. However, we're
in the unique position to train their hearts as well as their minds.
. . reproduce a typical classroom in your home.
children at home means so much more than replicating a schoolroom. Whatever strengths
a typical classroom may have order, color, good light, child-height desks
and table-copy. Schedules are important for staying on task and curricula add
structure, but keep the focus on the children. More than academics, the goal of
home schooling is to assist our child to be a good steward of his heart, mind,
and strength in service of the Lord. We offer integrated education in four main
areas: spiritual growth, character development, life skill training, and academic
Spiritual growth involves prayer (individually and as a family),
the Scriptures, regular use of the sacraments, and living the liturgical year
at home. Character development is a daily process of helping our children form
good habits, develop virtues, and refine manners. Life skill training refers to
learning practical skills for life as they become good stewards of our home and
possessions, thus contributing to the family's well-being. Academic excellence
involves training their minds in intellectual work with due consideration for
their readiness and physiological development.
. . lead with criticism. You see the children's faults better than any other teacher
We are mothers and fathers first, teachers second. Our
instruction flows from our unique relationship with each child. Our intimate knowledge
of each child reveals his shortcomings, but we must use great care to direct the
child toward maturity with compassion, respect, and charity, rather than submit
him to constant criticism. St. Paul says, "Make love your aim" (1 Cor. 14:1).
- . . . never vary your curriculum
or method. Children learn the same things at the same rate. It's too much work
to allow for individuality.
Some curricula or methods that
work well for one child will work well for others. Your focus, however, is teaching
each child effectively rather than using the same materials over and over. Flexibility
one of the greatest qualities we learn as parents is key!
assess the effectiveness of our method by how well the child learns. Since our
children vary in physical development, learning styles, and temperament, we may
need to select other materials or adjust our teaching method, rather than blame
our child for not understanding. Since the goal is understanding mastery
of the subject we adjust for individuality.
. . don't ask for help or attend support group meetings. If God's called you to
home school, He can equip you to do it alone.
We do need inner
strength and determination to home school, but we don't want to foster an independent
spirit in ourselves or our children that hinders a proper understanding of the
Body of Christ.
A support group is made up of other parents who are discovering
daily how to nurture their families through home schooling. There is collective
wisdom suggestions for improvement that lighten our spirits, give
us fresh ideas, encourage us in our struggles, and provide a forum for prayer
and practical advice.
- . . . isolate
your family. Socialization is not that important.
If our child
has become overly dependent on peers, limiting their interaction may be helpful.
However, we aren't called to isolation to keep them pure.
is the process of learning how to function as a mature brother or sister in the
Body of Christ. Some principles include responding to authority without a critical
spirit, leading others into godly behavior, bearing one another's burdens, and
caring for widows, orphans, and the poor.
Home is the natural environment
for learning how to be a brother or sister before applying principles of social
interaction outside the home. Peer segregation is not a natural environment for
socialization; rather, age integration is the norm for families, neighborhoods,
work environments, and the Church.
. . remember: Use whatever curriculum your friends use. If it works for them,
then it will work for you.
A friend's ideas, suggestions, and
schoolroom set-up can help us, but we must resist peer pressure. Others' suggestions
are just that we don't have to justify teaching our children in a way different
from someone else.
We must consider our child's needs, talents, abilities,
and education thus far, our financial situation, our discretionary time for organizing
materials, our own gaps in education, and what other resources we have available.
Once we discuss these decisions with our spouse, and pray, we will discern how
to handle advice from others wisely.
. . don't be flexible. Once you have set a plan in motion, don't change.
need a plan, but then we evaluate it. We may shift the schedule because of a baby's
nap, availability of a tutor, the timing of music lessons, or another commitment.
We model for our children the whole learning process, including learning how to
- . . . don't plan your schedule.
Education just happens, if you let it.
Learning is ongoing,
but without goals, we can't evaluate the education. Scheduling is an opportunity
for our own character development in the area of time management. Whether or not
we were born organized, we can gain the skills needed to set and evaluate goals
for each child in each subject.
Schedules bring great peace as long as
they aren't followed slavishly. When goals are clear, home schooling doesn't meander
throughout the day. Children understand expectations and can work independently,
depending on age. Conflicts are minimized since the children know what must be
done before play resumes. Moms can cope better with morning sickness or fatigue
when the schedule is set.
- . . . exclude
your babies and toddlers. Only the older children get individualized attention.
Home schooling is a full-family venture, including babies and
toddlers. When little ones feel excluded, they cause problems. We include them
in activities or give them their own desk and materials. And they benefit from
the one-room schoolhouse effect.
- . .
. be critical of yourself. After all, you are the one that is on trial
everyone is looking at you to see if home schooling is a good idea.
of us can take this kind of pressure. We begin this venture by the grace of God
and the support of our spouse. Motivated by our unconditional love for each child
and bolstered by the authority God has given us, we can craft a wonderful and
challenging program for each child that addresses his or her specific needs, talents,
abilities, interests, and learning styles. Unlike classroom teachers, we can select
the curriculum we want, take the field trips we choose, instill our values, and
tutor each child to mastery.
We are teachers because we are parents.
We have done the hard work of teaching them to walk, to talk, and to go to the
bathroom. Teaching them to read and write is every bit as exciting as those first
few steps. Through home schooling we have the opportunity to prepare our children
for their life's work. What a privilege to spend a quantity of quality time together.
Home schooling is an amazing family adventure. I invite you to consider this
educational option for your family.
Kimberly Hahn. "If You Want to Fail at Home Schooling . . ." Lay
Witness (March/April 2003).
This article is reprinted with permission
from Lay Witness magazine. Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic
United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to
support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.
Hahn is the co-author of Catholic
Education: Homeward Bound: A Useful Guide to Catholic Homeschooling.
To order this title or other books by Kimberly Hahn, call Benedictus Books toll-free
at (888) 316-2640.
Copyright © 2003 LayWitness