Leigh asks on her Mommy Memoir for help in understanding what makes a Catholic mum homeschool her children. Please read her full post on the link, but here’s a short quote:
“So, I’m asking you blogging, Catholic SAHMs to provide me with insight as to what you perceive to be the benefits/downsides of homeschooling your children. And I guess the burning question is why you are not supportive of traditional, parish-based Catholic schooling? After all, Catholic education is still considered by many to be the gold standard. Why has it seemed to lose it’s appeal with so many of you?”
Homeschooling was never something I wanted to do. In fact even when I started doing it I didn’t really want to. Let me explain:
My older three children went to the local Catholic primary school. We moved house and I moved the two remaining in primary to the new local Catholic primary school. The new school was ten times better than the old one with a wonderful headmaster and committed good Catholic teachers. Meanwhile my oldest son Josh had started at a Catholic comprehensive school nearby that had a good reputation. He stayed there despite the many problems we faced with the school until he finished his A’levels (I think that’s the equivalent of High School Certs yrs 12/13). It was incredibly wearing having to correct a lot of what he was learning and by the end the standards were so poor we had to get a friend to help tutor him through his A’levels.
Meanwhile Alex my second child who has dyslexia had started the same school. The standard of education he received was simply appalling. It was made worse by the constant and serious bullying that the school seemed completely incapable of dealing with. In the end I was forced to pull him out of school and homeschool him.
The decision took me a long time.
I had met a couple of Catholic families who home educated their children and had done so right from the start. They were strong advocates of the process and from them I borrowed books or simply talked with them. I also met another homeschooling family near by who had pulled their older children from school; they were a disaster and NOT an advert for home education at all.
I read books; Laura Berquist, Kimberley Hahn and a whole load of other stuff before finally pulling Alex out of school. NOTHING I had read prepared me for what I faced. My 14 yr old son could barely read. He was bitter, angry and closed to learning. I spent the next two years undoing the damage. The books I had read, quite frankly, were no help, but fellow homeschoolers were. I was fortunate to join an excellent homeschool group and although most had younger children, many had been burned by the dreadful standards of education here in the UK-and we shared ideas and resources (and still do).
Alex has done well. He is now in college and has a job. He reads to a high standard appropriate for his age and has overcome the difficulties being dyslexic has put on him. In less than two years he went from reluctantly reading Spiderman comics (at 14) to reading Lord of the Rings, The Scarlet Pimpernel and sitting the International-GCSE in English. He has a full portfolio of work with references from tutors and the Local Authority inspector. (As a side note the main instigator of the bullying stabbed the caretaker and ended in a YOI.)
I decided to pull Iona out of school when things started to go wrong right from the moment she went to secondary school. To be honest I couldn’t face the fights, the letters, the meetings. Then a teacher pulled her out and made her write words on the board in front of everyone to mock her for her spelling and that was it. I had her home. She is more dyslexic than Alex and I did not want her put off learning the way he was. It was the right decision. She loves learning and has many interests and skills. She will sit her Maths IGCSE this summer; 2yrs early and I am ensuring she reads a lot-something not done in school.
My younger three will all be homeschooled. There are a number of reasons for this.
The standard of education in this country is poor and not getting any better. Unfortunately our Catholic schools are tied into Govt funding and are therefore obliged to teach the badly written national curriculum. Increasingly they are also obliged to provide sex education that is both unsuitable and lacking in modesty or even sense. They are NOT taught the sanctity of marriage nor even the Catholic faith properly.
My 4yr old did start school briefly. It was awful. What is the point in it when I can teach him at home at his pace and have him grow up as part of a supportive community of fellow home educated children? Our homeschool group is made up a mixture of families; Catholic, Anglican, other Christians, Muslim and occasionally secular families have joined us.
Downside: I think the biggest downside is other people’s attitude to be honest. Few people are like Leigh and ask with a real intent to find out why we home ed. They simply judge-and with NO knowledge or information judge negatively. It is not mainstream so it must be wrong. When we homeschooling mums sit together it’s the BIGGEST problem we face. Mind you many of those who were rude and/or negative towards us a couple of years ago have changed their minds-including the maths tutor who constantly talks about ways to pull his step kids out of school.
The other big problem with homeschooling is that is such hard work, and it’s a huge responsibility. None of us could do it without a great deal of prayer; I really don’t know how non-believers do it at all.
Despite what Kimberley Hahn wrote in her book, homeschooling is not as cheap as all that; especially not here in the UK. Paying for tutors, exams and resources is very difficult at times and does limit what we can offer the children.
Upside My older children have blossomed at home and had the opportunity to learn things and do things school simply doesn’t allow for. They have been allowed to spend time on areas of history, science or art that truly interest them. Alex has learned to use Photoshop so well that one of his tutors at college has noticed him and offered to give him extra tuition on the side for his artwork. They are learning Latin and Sign Language (schools don’t provide this) and have time to read good books; why schools don’t do this is beyond me.
They have spent a lot of time with a good mixture of people of all ages and this includes children with various learning disabilities including aspbergers. This increases their social skills and emotional maturity in a way being stuck with 30 kids the same age could never do. They are not stuck in a classroom all day, but get to out for walks and we even take the lessons out to the park with a picnic in the summer. Okay, winter tends to be more a home thing, but there is still family trips out and homeschool group.
My children can learn what is good. I will not have spend time correcting erroneous history, science and worse still RE statements made by teachers who seem not to know or care about the subject they are teaching.
Each child can learn at their own pace; which means Ronan who is very bright can get on with things, while Iona who struggles with her writing and spelling is not crushed by a ‘system’ that does not allow for that.
Time is something Iona talks about. She has time compared to her friends. She never misses Scouts because she has too much homework. Her evenings are for family time not sitting in her room at a desk like her friends. Weekends are for family trips out or seeing friends etc. not catching up on homework.
Finally-I think I’ve gone on long enough- I have realised from the research and experience I now have that home educated children do better both in social skills, faith and academia. Some children probably do very well in school and parents have a “right and duty” to decided what is best for their children. For my children home education is best and they are doing very well with it. As schools in the UK fail our children more and more-and universities have set up basic skills courses for undergraduates because the academic standard of students is so low, more and more parents are choosing to homeschool. There was a time when education here was way ahead of anything offered in the USA; those days are long gone.
Leigh-there’s loads more I could say on this subject, which is close to my heart but I’ll end there. Please feel free to ask more questions and God bless.