Friday, May 13, 2016
I was up at 6:30 this morning, unusually early, probably in anticipation of attending my first homeschooling conference later today! I will be driving an hour to a city where such things occur. It isn't a Charlotte Mason conference; there hasn't been one of those close to my home. But I'm excited because it is being held by a Catholic company, Seton Home Study. As Charlotte Mason herself was not Catholic, it can be especially difficult for Catholic CM home educators to find good materials to suit our needs. In some ways I think we really are pioneers.
For all CM homeschoolers, the challenge exists to find living books for the self-design of a curriculum. There are full curriculum guides online, but not all are Catholic, and for various reasons it may not work to follow a single one completely. Cost of books can certainly be an issue. In the spirit of thriftiness I enjoy finding vintage treasures at flea markets, garage sales, antiques shops, and library book sales. And of course a great deal can be found through the library system itself.
I like Seton because they provide resources such as reprints of vintage Catholic readers and the Baltimore Catechism, and they incorporate historical fiction novels. When I wasn't getting very far teaching Beezy cursive writing, I ordered one of their handwriting workbooks, and it has been very effective. Today I'm going to take a look at their Bible history offerings for 6th and 7th grade. Though their curriculum is heavy on traditional text/workbooks, these often use a story format rather than the typical dry facts variety. It will also simply be nice to have a mom's day out, to listen to the speakers at the conference and experience being a part of a larger homeschooling community. Where I live there are very few Catholic homeschooling families.
It is wonderful to be able to sit out on my front porch this morning, enjoying the sunshine and birdsong. One of my favorite delights every year is getting the porch all cleaned up and reorganized. We can eat, visit with friends and family, and do our school lessons out here. I've been watching children trickle to the bus stop, and that brings me to another topic.
Last week Beezy had the opportunity to attend full days at the Catholic school where she takes a la carte art and gym classes. She was supposed to go full-time all week, but by Wednesday night she had a sore throat, so she only went for three days. That was enough of the experiment to gauge what it would really be like.
As I suspected, if we sent Beezy there full time, our family life would revolve almost entirely around school. Beezy did enjoy it. She didn't seem to mind getting up early, and she wasn't bored being there all day. What she did not enjoy was the homework, especially for math. From what I saw with all of the homework, she is working at grade level, so I don't think a transition to school life would be a problem in that respect. But a good portion of the evenings were spent with her dad and I helping with homework. One evening she visited with a neighbor friend for an hour. On another we took a family dog walk, and on the third she played outside for awhile. But allowing her to have a life in the evening meant not finishing the homework.
In addition, parents of Catholic school children are expected to do a lot of volunteer work. I put the issue of the cost of tuition out of my mind in order to evaluate other kinds of costs. The biggest cost is time. I would spend a minimum of five hours every week driving to and from the school. In that amount of time I can cover two days worth of homeschooling! Beezy didn't have time for the book she is reading for pleasure, or to watch our favorite shows on Netflix. I was not able to do our usual bedtime read alouds. If we were to add her weekly piano lesson, religious education class, and participation in a sport to the mix, I don't see how we would have any free time left. As children get older, even weekends are consumed with homework and extracurricular school activities.
The experience gave me a new appreciation for the ability to homeschool. My husband was dead set against losing this freedom and being chained to the school schedule and requirements. We only have one car, so on a day like today I would not be able to go a conference in a city an hour away. And in our current situation, other homeschooling friends who also have greater freedom with time can get together for play dates and sleepovers any day of the week. With not having to pay tuition, we can spend that money on lessons, classes, field trips, sports, and other enrichment activities that would have to otherwise go by the wayside. And we don't have to become exhausted and disconnected from one another in the process. I was amazed that after having my child at school for the entire day, I still had to "homeschool" in the evenings! I cannot see the benefit.
The Catholic school is great. It's a good place for those families who cannot homeschool. Beezy's class is a wonderful group of kids, and the Catholic environment is extremely important. I wouldn't consider public school unless it was the only option. But I can best live my vocation as a Catholic mother by homeschooling. Even at the Catholic school, the education is infiltrated with Common Core, and the only class in which Catholic school books are used is the religion class. The children pray there three times daily, and they attend Mass once a week. Most of the teachers are Catholic. At home I can provide an education in which the Catholic Faith permeates the entire curriculum, which fulfills the teaching of the Church in a way that the school does not. The sacrifice of time and money would not be worth it to me or my husband. I feel blessed that we can have the best of both worlds, that we can homeschool and also provide a part-time experience of enrichment classes at the school for our child.
We all want what is best for our children. I believe in a Charlotte Mason education. That is simply not something my daughter would be privileged to have at any of our area schools. The freedom of educational choice is one that we must not take for granted. We exercise our rights, or risk losing them. I choose to seize the day!