Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling. Most Popular Serious Post of 2018

As promised, here is my Most Popular Serious Post of 2018.  According to my stats, this post really made the rounds.  I hope Bishop Kagan had a chance to look at it too.

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.

 

Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

 

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.

 

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living, Motherhood & Parenting

How to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections, & Other Nasty Stuff

Some of you may be wondering how it might be possible to survive sickness in your household and teach school all day?  Yes?  Then read on.

Since I am in the midst of caring for Barfing Children right now, I thought I’d offer a few tips of advice.  This is mostly to encourage myself and cheer on the rest of you, who may be suffering from this most taxing and exhausting dilemma.

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Crabby Baby.

8 Tips to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections & Other Nasty Stuff While Teaching School, Cooking for a Family, and Cleaning a House:

1.Don’t clean your house.  Or if you must, just make your bed and call it good.  Heck, your bed is probably still made from yesterday because you didn’t sleep in it anyway.  You were sitting in the rocking chair, holding a screaming baby all night.  I know it’s a big deal in this household to get a load of laundry done every day too, but I guess it won’t go anywhere, so that can be left alone.*  (See note below.)  The children can turn their clothes inside-out and wear them again, for the 3rd day in a row, unless of course there’s vomit on them…

2.  Put lipstick on.  This should go without saying.  Not only is lipstick fun, but it brightens everyone’s day.  Especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing it.  Your husband and children will wonder what came over you.  And when you look in the mirror, you will not notice the dark circles around your eyes, but will instead, be stunned by the awesomeness of Hot Pink Lips.  You might even laugh at yourself, which is good.

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Survival Gear.  Must Haves.

3.  Reduce school to a minimum.  This is a very good time to renew your subscription to Audible, purchase The Story of Civilization, and commence History Class.  When your children are finished with this, send the healthy ones outside for the remainder of the day for Nature Study.  If the healthy children do not want to do Nature Study, offer House-Cleaning 101, wherein all children scrub floors, walls, and toilets.

4.  Spend an extra amount of time styling your hair.  Why?  Because you’re sleep deprived and look like it.  There are statistics out there saying that if you look put-together, you will feel put-together.  Paul Harvey, the decades-long iconic radio broadcaster, used to wear a suit and tie every day for his program.  And his studio was in his house, where virtually no one saw him.  But he knew that his performance was always better if he dressed the part.  So, this morning, I dug out my curling iron and spent five extra minutes curling my hair.  Then, I sprayed it with lots of hair spray.  And yes, it made me feel better about not sleeping last night.

Embed from Getty Images

Paul Harvey.  Great guy.  My dad was named after him, literally.

5.  Decide not to yell at your children.  You are going to have a demanding day.  Just face it.  If the baby was up all night crying, he’s going to be crabby and cry all day too.  So, your nerves are shot.  You will be seriously tempted to yell at your other children.  Just don’t do it.  This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a lot of prayer.  And in some cases, like mine, it will take a minor miracle.  See my post HERE on that one.

6.  Eat takeout or something frozen for supper. Eating Little Caesar’s Pizza every once in awhile won’t kill you.  In fact, it might save your sanity.  And I’ve found that those $4.98 rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club are handy too.  The best part is, they’re hot and ready to eat, and I’ve done nothing to prepare them.  Someone I know gave me that great bit of advice.  She also said to top it off with a bag of baby carrots and a bag of buns.  Smart, smart woman.

7.  Spend more time in prayer.  Why?  Because you’re sleep-deprived and well, crazy from holding a screaming baby all night.  All sleep-deprived, crazy people need a lot of prayer.  I know this from experience.  The tricky part is making time to do it.  I suggest leaving your house and spending an hour in silent Adoration.  Hire a babysitter, call grandma, ask your husband to take sick leave…anything.  This hour of Adoration may be the only time you will get to sleep, until the illnesses go away.  And yes, sleeping in Adoration still counts as prayer.

8.  Drink More Coffee.  It’s a given that this helps, right?

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O Brewer of Buzzes!  O Terror of Yawns!  How I love thee!

 

Bonus Tip

I’ve also heard that having a teenager helps too, because then she can babysit.  Well, I’m working on that one.  But I’m afraid it’s still going to be two more years until that one becomes a reality.

*Note:

I have a friend who got a day behind on laundry.  So the next day, she washed and dried multiple loads and then carried them to her bed.  She made a nice, heaping pile and then promptly forgot about them until bedtime.  Well, what to do then?  Spend six hours folding them?  No!  She smartly remembered her clean bathtub and quickly deposited them there and pulled the shower curtain shut until the following day.  Then she didn’t have to stare at it.  Just an idea.

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This is an actual picture of my friend’s Laundry Solution.  Smart Woman.

 

Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children?  If so, share these tips with them?

Homeschooling

10 Things I’ve Learned From Parenting & Homeschooling

I’ve been homeschooling now for almost six years.  This has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  (Certainly harder than teaching sophomores at a high school.  Or the time I shelved books in a library.  Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park.  Or, well, you get the idea.)  And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder.  For example, six years ago, I only had a kindergartner.  Now I’ve got a fifth-grader, two third-graders, a first-grader, and a preschooler.  (Not to mention a toddler and another in the womb.)  But the good news is, it’s all worth it.

Well, to celebrate six almost down and about twenty-five more years to go, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Six Years Ago

  1.  Get up before the children do.

Yep, you just need to do it.  You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it.  I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes…  If you can do this, your day is set.  Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible.  For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.  Prudence, mama.

But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:

“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**

**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting.  She’s hilarious.

 

  1.  It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

I will never be a crafty mother.  I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts.  If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it.  Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas.  This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family.  I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.

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This is the extent of my “craftiness.”  The children may draw whatever they want.  Then they can grab some tape and hang it on the Art Wall themselves.  Yes, this is the laundry room, where they have free reign to hang their “Art.”

 

  1.  Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.

This one’s absurd.  Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a public prison, er, I mean in a public school?  How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself?  Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath.  (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.)  The point is, our children are learning.  And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.

 

  1.  Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.

This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others.   With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day.  If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She’s really intense, but insightful.

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This is my 3rd or 4th copy, as I keep giving them away.
  1.  Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.

I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five.  I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read.  And now, I’ve spent the last three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself.  (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it.  Amen.)

 

  1.  Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.

I hate math.  And guess what?  When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it.  But my husband loves math, so last year, he took it over.  (I will love him forever for it.)  In our household, math starts at 7am.  Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well.  If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively.  Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom?  Or, budget for and hire a tutor?  Enroll in an online program?

 

  1.  Eat breakfast like a prison camp.

In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning.  We’ve done it for years.  There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.  And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast.  (On the weekend, there is a reprieve.  Saturday is oatmeal.  Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.)  You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.

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I keep the bread and PB right where Child Number Two can reach it, as it’s his job to make all 13 slices of toast every morning.
  1.  Learn to say no.

You want to destroy your family life?  Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.  As a culture, we are far too busy.  Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Pick one.  And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night.  This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families.  And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.

 

  1.  Are you going crazy?

From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out.  As I have a small house, this gets tricky.  I mostly prefer to hide in the bathroom, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, unless I take a bath.  This year has been the Year of the Bath.  I bought myself some lavender epsom salt.  It smells nicely.  I also prefer to take a martini and my book in there with me too.  What do you do to get away?  Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon.  And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

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This is the equipment necessary for a Proper Bath.  And yes, it is best to take the shaker in with you.

 

  1.  Lastly, think of all you’ve learned!

Yes, I finally have a fifth grade education.  Whenever I feel poorly about my job as a mother and educator, I console myself with the thought that at least my children know more now than I ever did at their age.

 

If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.

Anyone have other thoughts or ideas?  I’d enjoy hearing about them.