Mary Harrell, a mother of four, is a producer and host for Mater Dei Radio and writes from Sacramento, California.
A major event transpired this past month that should be given a thorough review: the First Full Week of Instruction for the Nation’s Most Reluctant Homeschooling Families.
It’s a relief to have survived week one of homeschooling in our family. On Day One, I asked the children to be respectful and attentive. They asked me to buy those individual packets of Pirate’s Booty like I used to when they were actually attending school. Seemed like a fair trade.
Homeschooling my oldest two boys (in grades 3 and 5) is an altogether different beast from homeschooling my little two (in kindergarten and preschool). The boys’ day is a 12-subject slog through English, reading, vocabulary, spelling and phonics, history, math, handwriting, science and math — plus, they’ve got some daily pull-ups to do for P.E., a couple of songs to memorize for music, and a weekly art project.
To his credit, my 8-year-old told me only three times on Wednesday that he hated school. I gave him some Pirate’s Booty to soothe the pain.
This isn’t unexpected, of course. We knew we were signing up for this rigor when we chose Seton, and indeed, this is why we picked it. I like knowing that we’re covering all the bases in one day. All 12 bases. Deep breath.
Kindergarten, on the other hand, seems like a cake walk compared to that. Daily phonics and religion lessons, coupled with manageable handwriting, math and art work, make for a relatively easy sense of accomplishment with our 5-year-old. Preschool thus far follows a similar pattern. Win-win.
Takeaways from the first week? Knowing exactly what my kids are learning, how well they’re understanding it, and how long it takes them to master it gives me a pretty decent sense of maternal satisfaction.
Along with our set of Seton materials came the book Catholic Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents by Mary Kay Clark, the director of Seton for more than 25 years. In it, Clark (an ardent homeschool apologist) argues that parents make the most efficient teachers of their own children, for a simple reason: a parent, in knowing everything a child has already learned, will never waste time insisting they re-learn the same concept twice. No homeschool child sits bored through a third repetitious math class on long division — because if he’s already mastered long division to his father’s satisfaction, he can move on.
It’s an undeniable benefit of homeschooling that, before last week, sounded like a smug claim. Smug my foot — Mary Kay Clark knows her stuff. It’s like she’s been doing this for decades or something.
But do we miss “regular” school? Oh, yes. Even though most of the kids attending our parochial school aren’t back in the classrooms yet and are doing distance learning, we miss the solidarity of being in that same boat with all our school families — even if that boat has sprung a few leaks and is missing a Chromebook charging cord.
And in all honesty, the first homeschooling week wasn’t all sunshine and rosebud nature journaling. Everyone, especially me, is exhausted by the level of effort this takes.
I cried Friday morning while trying to simultaneously administer two spelling tests, two vocabulary tests, bake a gluten-free cinnamon loaf cake and submit a grocery pickup order on the Walmart app. My younger two were hollering “we want to do our learning now Momma,” and my boys had apparently forgotten the age-old independent skill of numbering a piece of binder paper from 1-20 and putting their name at the top of it. I reached a breaking point.
Early recess for everyone, and a handful of M&Ms for me, even though it was only 8:25 a.m. Let’s not forget — I’m extremely, rotundly and breathlessly nine months pregnant.
It was a short-lived sob session, and I was grateful it came on Friday and not Monday. And the good news? After recess, both boys got 100% on those first spelling and vocab tests.
I don’t want to brag, but… I hear they have a pretty good teacher this year.