Homegrown Catholics is an excellent resource for religious education teachers, homeschoolers, and parents. Here you'll see all my lesson plans and project ideas on many Catholic subjects as well as school topics. If you would like to read about my adventures as a Home Educator, click on the St. Brigid's Academy tab above.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound
A useful guide to Catholic Homeschooling
Written by: Kimberly Hahn & Mary Hasson (c) 1996

These are my notes and thoughts on this fabulous resource of encouragement for all homeschoolers and for those considering homeschooling. It is written by a well known speaker, and wife to Scott Hahn, another fabulous Catholic writer and speaker.

Ch 1 There's no place like home
Home schooling is continuing the education we already started they day our first child was born. It is the parents' God given obligation to educate their children, an education that is irreplaceable. Children who are homeschooled excel. From reports, they score well above institutional school students. Mainly due to the one-on-one tutoring, and the parents' making each child's personal success a priority.

A parent's love and attention surpasses that of a school teacher's. It fosters encouragement, sense of self, and respect that cannot compare. When we homeschool, we educate for a greater purpose than obtaining skills. We focus on their personal relationship with God, character formation, developing positive traits (manners, talents, etc), and family unity.

The family culture homeschoolers have is enriched with positives that are undermined by the secular and unbiased culture taught to children in public schools. A Catholic student should be soaked in the riches of morality and virtue.

And if that wasn't enough to convince, the flexibility of our schedule is greatly appreciated. We have time to enrich our children in the world around them from the home and into the community and beyond. Life becomes their schoolroom. Then, when sickness, tragedy, or family matters require a break – we take it. Also, when a child is struggling on a lesson, there is always time to stop and work on it until success is achieved.

Ch 2 Making the Grade
Roughly 25% of private and public school students are proficient in reading, writing and math skills. This is in comparison to 70-80% of homeschoolers. And on standardized tests, they rank 15-32 percentage points higher than public school students. Simply put – it works! The attention to individual strengths and weaknesses help us overcome obstacles and boredom in the classroom. Each student's curriculum is personalized.

The levels or grades of education in homeschooling are based upon the student's abilities, not by age. This is particularly wonderful for families with children who have learning disabilities or children who are considered "gifted" or superiorly "smart." Each subject takes as long as it takes. There are no class time restrictions. Life itself is a lesson. The ability to stop and learn when a student is stumped, rather than skip and move on with the entire class is one of my favorite aspects. I recall not "catching on" in class, and missing entire lessons because the class had moved on. This created embarrassment and sometimes poor grades. Not every child is comfortable admitting their slowness infront of 30 children. They'd rather conform and blend in than stand out. This also applies to the "teachers pet" or smarter students. Some children feel forced to purposely fail at some tasks simply not to stand out amongst their peers. Yes, peer pressure to conform to the average student, instead of excelling and moving forward. Very few teachers let me advance in my books if I understood quicker, or take my time if I couldn't catch up.

There is always time for extras, such as field trips. The cost to purchase curriculums is minimal in comparison to private/parochial schools.

Ch 3 A Catholic Education

When homeschooling, there is more time to teach the faith. We can attend Mass, integrate Catholicism into all subjects, and there is no negative social distractions. We are forming consciences, which is a delicate task. Parents are required, no matter where their children are schooled, to provide spiritual and moral training to their children. In a homeschool setting, there is no risk of undermining the faith by teachers or students. Many teachers in our Catholic schools today may be "Catholic" by baptism, but not necessarily required to believe, teach, or understand Catholicism. A positive thing I've found, is that even the most faithful parents learn along with their children, enriching the faith of the teacher.

We are molding souls and characters that can thrive, while public schools diminish them. We can teach the true discipline through the commandments a school teacher wouldn't have time for. In the end, when our children reach their judgement day, WE will be held accountable for their initial formation. So when it comes to educating our children, I would agree that the Church comes first, and basic skills second.

Not only is it our privilege and responsibility to educate our children, but it is our right! Many resources point in this direction including the Bible, Canon Law, Papal writings, and the Catechism. Did you know that private schools were developed when the government took over our children's education from parents and made public schools. The Christian communities saw a need to fulfill the spiritual lives of their children that they new they would not receive in public school systems. Even today, presidential issues include a law that will issue vouchers to allow parents to choose public, parochial or charter schools. That would resolve the cost issues, but I still believe in the unbeatable choice to homeschool.

We know our faith to be as true as any "fact" or "proven theory." Yet, teachers preach our faith as opinion and teach children to be unbiased towards their teachings of neutrality. Often on subjects of morality, and when our children's defenses are down. And teacher's are not monitored on their own opinions or beliefs. Do you know what your children are learning in school?

St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, "Knowledge puffs up; but love builds up."

If you've been through CCD and have had additional home teaching of the faith, you will have noticed that it is lacking both in book and teacher. Catholic churches and schools are failing to teach the truths to our children. We are being fed our faith by whomever is willing to come and teach, without supervision by church authorities such as priests and nuns. Luckily, we can ask God to provide for what we lack. We can make an effort to enrich our own faith and pass it on to our children as He asks.

Ch 4 Goals & Priorities
There are many teachable moments in a day of homeschooling. We constantly find opportunities to educate our children in life lessons, basic skills, and our faith. We don't just teach "Religion" here. We teach sacred scripture, church laws, and sacred traditions – the tripod of our faith. Take one leg out and it will fall over. (Thanks dad for that one.) We instill wholeheartedly, virtues for character formation. We have time in our days for faith-filled activities such as Mass, prayer volunteering, community activities, and other church Sacraments. We teach real life skills in a real life environment. Every day we are creating a sense of belonging and selfworth, discipline, and even teaching chores and responsibilities.

Ch 5 Socialization, monitored
In homeschool, there is no age segregation, no cliques, no "in-crowd." Children play together with children of all ages, and at gatherings sit by their friends who's last names may start with a different letter. As a newer member to the community, I can't tell you how interesting it was that in my public high school, most friend groups were made up of either people who had been in the same "by last name" homerooms over the years, or were in the same realm of intellect. There were preppies, slackers, loners, nerds, glamour girls, and a few more. Lucky for me, I befriended a few from each group when I moved to the area and was able to mingle around a stereotype (I think).

The friendships I developed in my K-12 years were not always positive and enriching for me. I can only hope to provide fruitful friendships for my children in ways that are pleasing to God. Not developed by chance of seating arrangements. And on a daily basis, my children will hopefully grow stronger relationships with their siblings as we work side by side. Also, as we obtain discipline in our home, there will be a stronger respect for us as parents. When we are faced with teenagers in the future, as many other homeschoolers prove, that there will be a more humble approach to hormonal emotions!

Peer-dominated education can be very harmful. I've seen it in school shootings, including my very own high school (Rocori High, Cold Spring MN). I've seen it in the sad faces of others, and in my own tears. It contrives rebellion and competition that can never be fruitful.

Especially in the elementary levels, I can vouch for positive personalities encouraged through homeschooling. The following traits are often downplayed and ruled out of public schools.
- talkative – helpful – bubbly – active – uniqueness – outwardly charismatic – and more.
I've seen these traits in my children, and myself at one time. I remember in Kindergarten at a Catholic school, being told not to help the other children. To be quiet. To wait to go to the bathroom. To not talk in the bathrooms. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, you were teased without teacher reprimand. Children can be cruel if allowed and unmonitored. Teased for weight, height, talents, weaknesses and even for being a top student. At home, we can deal with sin as it occurs. We will be THERE when our children misbehave and be able to teach a faithful lesson, correcting their behavior. There are peaceful resolutions made and they are lead by example.

Yes, here is the "Real World" at home. Home, neighborhood, church, workplace, and church. Mixed ages, sexes, races, and personalities gather in this real world. What is so unsocial about that?

The early life of Jesus was spent with his family. This family atmosphere is the perfect place to kindle the fire of our children's futures. There is consistency in family. The family is Catholic, monitored, and boasts with fruitful friendships. Just remember, we are on the ladder to heaven, not the social ladder.

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