Sunday, 3 February 2008

Realities of Homeschooling

Someone left a comment re homeschooling in the UK on my first post - saying,

"is there a Catholic org in the UK that has good advice on homeschooling? You got me interested in the subject."

As I replied, the short answer is there is no organisation, as such. There used to be a Catholic homeschooling network, but that folded a couple of years ago, although there may be moves afoot to start a new one. A lot of the Catholic homeschoolers know (or know of) each other, and try to link up with others in their area, and some families arrange meetings once a week/month etc. There are many different types of Catholic homeschooling families, (as in, ranging from those who adhere very much to the Traditional Latin Mass, to those who are at home with the New Rite,) and each family chooses their own curriculum. What most of the people that I have met are trying to do, is to retain a sense of their Catholic identity, and to pass that on to their children.

A lot of people are disaffected with the state of Catholic education in this country, and the iniquitous "sex education" (otherwise known as child abuse, to my mind), has been gradually adopted by many Catholic schools, starting from aged 5 upwards. My husband is a Catholic R.E. teacher in a secondary school who has children coming to his lesson from the science lesson, where they have just been taught all about contraception. He then has to teach the "Catholic view" on contraception. The children quiz him about this discrepancy - they can see how irrational it all is. He once had a girl arriving at his lesson, wiping her hands, and saying "ugh this stuff is horrible to get off" what was it? Spermicidal jelly!!! In a Catholic school! He did complain about this to his Bishop, and his headmaster. Nothing has happened - and now it's a year on and the lessons are due again - he's wondering what will happen this time round.

But Catholic homeschooling isn't merely being done for negative reasons.

We got the idea of doing it from a Catholic Charismatic Community in the USA that we were involved with a long time ago. I first visited it when I was single, and the children of one of the families there were the most fantastic, well-balanced, and self-disciplined young people I had ever met. I was impressed with them, and their parents, and loved the idea of having one's children around, and educating them oneself. I have watched these children grow, and the oldest batch (they came in two batches, with 4 older ones, and then a second spring, with 4 younger ones, much to their parent's delight) are fine adults, making their way in the world, one training to be a priest. They have all kept the faith.

I knew, once I'd met them that I would, if I were ever blessed with a husband, and children, home educate (given that my husband would agree to it!). Well, I was truly blessed with a wonderful husband, and he visited this community with me after we were married, and he was convinced of the home-education being a good thing too. We in turn were blessed with our son, and I often thought to myself, whilst longing and waiting for more children to come, that I might not be so convinced of home educating an only child. However, since when you have a little child, you spend the first four or five years of their life helping them learn, it seemed like a logical extension to carry that on, and so we have done. He is now ten. We tried to adopt, but no child has been given to us in the five years since we were officially approved to adopt. And so he has been homeschooled on his own, and we have to make efforts to help him to meet up with other children.
We moved into Shropshire two years ago, and have found a couple of other Catholic homeschooling families fairly close by. One in particular, in a neighbouring town, have 3 boys around our son's age, and they all belong to the same tennis club (which has a brilliant youth section, and is very cheap! - unlike the hoity toity clubs elsewhere). So we try to meet up once or twice a week, and I have even begun to teach the boys French each week (which is just about all my rusty brain can stretch to!), and we have started to attend some sign language lessons, which a deaf friend of their family has been offering them for a while.
The situation is not ideal. Children need to be with other children, but an only child, who is homeschooled, has to make extra efforts to meet up with others. Our lad has attended soccer training sessions, but last time he went, he admitted that he had been bullied by two of the boys, and also that several of them use bad language (which he hates). He is quite resilient, and will probably want to go back this week, but I do wish there were some Christian youth teams around - one's that don't make a God of football, but where the children can just play to enjoy the sport.
Homeschooling is not easy, it involves sacrifice, but it is a good option if both parents are committed to it. It doesn't work for all families, some homeschool some of their children and let the others attend school. And it can be an expensive option too. Most families need two incomes to pay the mortgage, due to the ridiculous price of houses - we find it hard to break even most months, and we do not have an extravagant lifestyle, we also have to pay taxes which go towards state-funded education, but don't receive any financial assistance for our efforts! However, if you know where to look, there are plenty of cheap, or even free resources around, at least whilst the children are little. As they get older, it does involve a cost for buying in a curriculum.

We sometimes say to our son that he can go to school if he wants to, then Mummy can go out to work, and we can all go on expensive holidays, but up to now, he has declined the offer! I think he knows he's on to a good thing! He knows that we have chosen this way of educating him because we think it is the best thing for him. He knows his Faith better than a lot of the 15 & 16 year olds that my husband tries to teach. He loves to serve at Mass (Old and New rites - though I think he prefers the Old!). He has always had an amazing confidence, and ability to chat to people of all ages - he can play with little children, and hold conversations with adults - he is the most sociable child I know, despite the so called "lack of socialization" that he is supposed to be experiencing by not attending school. But he can be strong-willed, and lazy, and I do have to deal with that too. Maybe in his teenage years it will get harder, maybe it will get easier - I have to leave my son's future in the Lord's hands, I only hope and pray that we can continue to help him develop into an adult who knows and loves Our Blessed Lord through the Truths of the Catholic Church He founded.


<*}}}>< said...

A well written post! You know I can appreciate the difficulties of raising an only child - and homeschooling one can be challenging, but also easier in many respects than teaching several.

God bless.


WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I am glad to find a fellow homeschooler. It is sometimes quite frustrating home edding in the UK I think more than my USA friends find it-because we are so weird for making this choice and because here it really is expensive. Unfortunately I also had a pretty horrible experience with a 'Catholic' homeschool group.
I have a friend who is beginning to set a new one up in Oxford.
I'll send you the details if you are interested. I don't drive yet so I can't attend.
I also have a homeschool blog; where I am trying to put together resources and ideas for anyone interested.
My older children did not follow a curriculum-they studied/study within reason what they are interested in and my 16yr old has a good portfolio and has gone to college.
My 14yr old is still homeschooled and I've just started my 4yr old.
I think homeschooling him and his sisters will be a very different experience-no school to undo.

I have used tutors for Maths and to help with English.

BTW I was glad to see the Sign Language. We're doing that too :)

God bless

MaggieClitheroe said...

Thankyou Alexa, and whitestone.

Yes, Alexa, I'm sure having only one is not as difficult as juggling more of different ages, but I do think that having only one, and a boy at that, can be tricky for other reasons, as I'm sure you'll agree. However, we soldier forward, seeking God's will in all of it!

Whitestone, I shall be visiting your blog shortly. Right now I'm being called by hubby to pray the Rosary!