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Question: The most successful part of our schooling is when I read aloud . . . Everything else is pretty much push, shove and tug! It sounds like other families have such a successful and relatively easy road to homeschooling. Am I wrong? I do wish I could find a more hands-on, "learning is fun" approach to this but somehow I have missed the boat. . .
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Perhaps, you may have discovered the ‘easiest road’ to homeschooling after all.  You are an example of why homeschooling works for children.  You admit that you have found out what they really enjoy.  Instead of admonishing yourself for doing something wrong, I see someone who is striving to do what is right for her children.  Remember that success means something entirely different for the Christian.  For us success means faithfulness as we strive to answer the Lord’s call to the best of our ability.  I sense that you are indeed successful.

Teacher moms are better attuned to the individual learning styles of their children.  From what I have been able to discern from the many professional teachers (including my own daughter) that I have talked with about this issue, it all comes down to one basic goal.  The goal is actually twofold.  First, we must understand each person’s learning style and gear our teaching accordingly.  Second, it is equally important to encourage each person to be an independent learner.  By accomplishing these goals or at least striving for them, we are preparing our children to become life-long seekers of knowledge.

Homeschooling gives us the freedom to adjust our teaching to fit the child’s needs.  This is something that all teachers want to be able to do.  However, professional teachers are not always able to achieve this in a large classroom setting.

Another factor to be considered with teaching children in the home, is the transition from ‘playing’ at home to doing ‘school’ at home.  It is important to be realistic with the attention spans of young children and provide for plenty of fresh air and activities that take them away from their books.  A fruitful amount of concentrated time learning new skills can be just as rewarding as spending the entire day at one task.

With this in mind, it is disturbing when we have to push, shove, and tug our children to do their schoolwork.  Maybe there are issues other than stubbornness at work between you and the children.

The first step for me is to make sure that I chose a user-friendly curriculum that will help me insure that the twofold goal of sensitivity to learning style and independent learning is met.  The curriculum must meet the criterion of these goals or it becomes a struggle every time my children and I approach the books.  I have used the CHC materials and curriculums for my children as have friends of mine.  The format is easily understood, truly Catholic and sound in the academics.  I like the ease with which I can read and explain to my children what is to be accomplished and then let them do the work on their own.  I like the fact that the answer keys are in the books.  The curriculum is not so structured that it leaves no room for the type of hands on creativity you desire.  There is a manageable amount of work for each day.  Each curriculum contains guidelines for what is a priority and what is not.  That is very helpful, when trying to plan a school day as well as meet the unexpected demands of a real family.

When setting the priorities of study for children I am always reminded of the scripture Ephesians 6:4.  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.  Do not let outside pressure determine what is a priority in your homeschool.  As this scripture tells us, training about the Lord is first and foremost a priority.  Curriculums that incorporate this truth are easier to use for the Catholic homeschooling family than those which do not.  The second instruction from this scripture is to be realistic in the tasks you want to accomplish.

Assuming you have found a curriculum that meets this criterion you are well on your way to success.  I have fallen into the trap of wanting to change discipline problems by changing curriculum.  This rarely works and instead makes more work for me.  It is far better to change behavior than to change curriculum.  Teaching our children that there are certain studies that must be performed each day is a far better lesson.  This is a life lesson that brings them into adulthood with the discipline necessary to meet the challenges of difficult times.

All privileges in life come with responsibility.  This is a concept that can be geared to even very young children.  I am a firm believer in rewarding children when they have met goals.  It tells them that they have achieved a goal that they may have thought they couldn’t.  What better lesson to teach a child.  As Catholics we are so blessed because we can teach them to look to the Will of God and strive to meet the goals that He sets for us knowing our reward is Eternal Life.

I am blessed from your question.  You have reminded me that I need to read out loud to my children more.  I have forgotten the beauty and peace of this time with the children.  I want to thank you for giving that to me.  I admire all homeschooling moms and dads who for the most part are seekers and desire to learn what is best for their children.

Dearest Jesus, we ask that You send the Holy Spirit to all homeschooling families.  We are seekers of Your Will, Lord.  Give us the grace necessary to discern what is best for each child.  Give us the grace to treat each child as an individual in the example of Your treatment of each of us, Your sons and daughters.   Amen.

The Lord never says no to the request of His Holy Spirit and the grace to do His will.  When you receive His Precious Body at Mass, speak to the Spirit about your concerns and needs.  He will show you the way.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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