Monday, January 21, 2008

Homeschooling Part II

I apologize for the light posting this past week. My mind is eaten up with anxiety over this home-schooling decision. (I’ve even broken out with acne from all the stress for the first time in eight years.)

I’ve always been a relatively cautious one--worried about coloring outside the lines. Choosing to home-school, especially with my background of four generations of public school teachers, feels like coloring outside of the established lines.

On Saturday I went to confession to clean up some of the sins I committed during the decision-making process. In the middle of my confession, my beloved priest said a) home-schooling is good for families that can do it, b) education of children is the decision of the parents BUT c) I need to be realistic about how much time I’ll be able to devote to home-schooling with a 1 1/2 year and a 3 year old in the house. “How fair will home-schooling this be to your 5 year old?” he asked. “Why don’t you just come to our January open house and check out our good parish school? Well, that’s all I’m going to say about that” and he turned the discussion to my next problem.

I came out of that confessional with such anguish. I truly believe that the advice given by priests in the confessional is directly inspired by Jesus. (I could have saved myself and my husband much anguish in our 2006 job search by taking my confessors advice “Don’t be so focused on New York City, be open to living in other cities” a bit more seriously—instead of immediately dismissing it as “that poor priest doesn’t understand artists!”) So most of Saturday night was miserable as I kept turning around my priest's words. Am I being unrealistic about the time commitment involved in teaching my kindergartener myself while trying to mother two other young children? Am I truly following God’s will?

At the same time, Hannah’s academic achievement is honestly one thing I’m not worried about if we home-school. We are already working on “education” and “socialization” and “religion” sixteen hours a day around here. Even if she only gets my undivided attention for instructing proper letter formation for twenty minutes a day, won’t she still come out ahead? Or as my blessed, calm friend Maria states: “How does competing for attention with two siblings from one mother so much worse than competing for attention with twenty-nine classmates for the attention of one teacher?”

Whatever your position on home instruction, please pray for my husband and me to have wise discernment on our children’s education this week. Thank you.


  1. I will pray for you. I keep getting signals that homeschooling might be right for our family, but I'm still too scared to acknowledge them. My oldest is in kindergarten at a public school this year and doing very well. Still, I sometimes wonder what we are doing. I hope you know peace with your decision.

  2. Thank you for your honesty. Also, what a great example of humility you show us to consider your confessor's advice even though it may not have been what you wanted to hear.

    Some random thoughts (not that you asked...sorry, just wanted to throw these out in case they're remotely helpful):

    - Who knows, perhaps the way God was working through your confessor is just that you'll run into someone important if you check out the school, or you'll come across some good homeschooling resources? I wouldn't say that his suggestion definitely means that you were being nudged away from homeschooling. :)

    - I highly recommend that you read St. Francis de Sales' Finding God's Will for You. It's a quick read, you should be able to get through it in no time (Introduction to the Devout Life is also perfect for what you're dealing with right now, though it's much longer). It may help you discern the right path for you here.

    - One thought that gives me comfort as I also weigh these issues is this: kids are very resilient. So let's say, for example, that I start homeschooling and after a year find that it's a flaming train wreck: I'm too distracted by little ones, I can't keep it all together, my oldest is learning nothing, etc. By the time that would be obvious, my child would probably not even be seven years old -- not an ideal situation, but certainly nothing he couldn't bounce back from quickly once I put him in school. And then I could find peace in the fact that I had tried it and found conclusively that that was not the right path for us at that time.

    To give you a real-world example, my dad's family moved to a remote part of Mexico when he was around 11 or 12 years old (my grandfather was an engineer who did refinery design). Since there weren't great local school options, my grandmother decided to try to homeschool him. It was evidently a total disaster. Didn't work at all. So after some time (maybe a year? not sure) they put him back in regular schools. He was quickly able to catch up with his peers and it wasn't a problem at all.

    Anyway, just thought I'd throw out that example to illustrate that even under the "worst case" scenario where it's not the right path for your family, I think it would all turn out fine. (I know, easy for me to say since my oldest is only three.) :)

  3. Hi Abigail. I was homeschooled all the way through (until 11th grade and then went to college early). While my parents are very intelligent my mom was definitely NOT the ideal personality type for homeschooling (it sounds from your blogging in the past that you ARE the ideal personality type - you go-getter you!) and we had more kids "competing" (whatever that means) for her attention then you have. And even with all the struggles that she had with organization, depression, no help from dad, etc. we have all turned out well academically (though not without gaps- cough cough -math. This is easily remedied if you use the resources at your disposal) and VERY well as people, if I do say so myself. We are well-rounded, faithful and informed Catholics, always at the top of the maturity curve, and we have great relationships with our parents. Honestly, if my mom can do it - you can. Priests are wonderful men and are supposed to be in-tune with the Lord, especially when giving advice during communion but believe me, it's not all from Him. I've had my share of truly bizarre advice. He was looking only at the elements of your ability to homeschool through the lens of your confession, i.e. the parts where you were stressed out and not dealing with the stress well. Besides, you're only talking about 1 year - you can always put her in school in 1st grade if it was a mistake. Give it a try!

  4. Abigail,

    This is our first year of homeschooling. My son is in Kindergarten, and I have two smaller children close in age to your children (3.5 and 1.5 when we started in August). It is not easy, but it is worth it for our family. My children are very close and play together well. We manage to get everything in, and most importantly to my husband and me, we are instilling our Catholic family values into everything we do.

    I went through a lot of the same anguish you did last year, and I did attend our Parish school's Open House, wondering whether I would be harming him by homeschooling.

    I, too, trust my confessor, and count on him to guide me. So, I know that the anguish and worry you have is true and deep. I will pray for you, your husband, and for Hannah, that you all may find peace in the decision you make.

    Good luck. Homeschooling is challenging, but also quite wonderful. And if it doesn't work out, I'm sure your Parish school is also a good and supportive learning environment (ours sure is).