As the tropical storm Isaiah pounded Maryland yesterday, I couldn’t help but think, it never rains… but it pours! Last week, Cale Clark at Relevant Radio asked me to chat with him about St. Martha on the Cale Clarke Show. Two days later, Paola Ciskanik at the Catholic Homeschool Conference asked if I would send in a bonus talk for the Jump Start Your Homeschool event, which is tomorrow (8/6/20).
My talk is about Finding the Courage to Homeschool, because I know so many of you are anxious about this coming school year. There are so many uncertainties, so many unknowns. Who knows how long schools will be forced into distance-learning? And I know many of you are wondering, Can I homeschool? Should I homeschool? How am I going to manage?
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Three years ago, I was at the peak of my homeschooling load. I was homeschooling five kids, and I had baby with Down Syndrome. (Think lots and lots of doctors’ appointments.) It was a joyful year, but it was also intense. On the one hand, I had a kindergartener who needed help with almost everything. On the other hand, I had an eighth grader who was preparing for the momentous HSPT (High school Placement Test). And in between, I had three high-energy boys.
Sometimes homeschooling all five kids felt like a juggling act. But in reality, it was more of a choreographed dance, with everyone doing their part. Such choreography allowed our homeschool to run on auto-pilot: the kids knew what they had to do without being told, they usually started their school work without having to be prompted, and they continued to do their school work even when I had to be elsewhere. This is not to say that our days were always smooth and the kids were always co-operative… we certainly had our moments! But, overall we had a rhythm to our day which allowed for much autonomous learning.
For those of you who are wondering how to structure your homeschool day, here are four ways to make your homeschool run on autopilot:
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Yesterday was the feast day of one of my favorite saints, the hard-working, anxious St. Martha. I was actually relaxing (for once!) while watching my children swim in our neighbor’s pool, when I got a call from Cale Clarke. He wanted to know if I would like to talk about this blog and St. Martha on his nationally syndicated talk show on Relevant Radio… that very day!
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Checklists. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with checklists. We love when we get to check off an item — done! Yay! We hate when we don’t get to check off an item on that list — ugh. Failure.
Whether we like it or not, checklists are, for many of us, a necessary part of lesson planning: a way to keep track of what we need to do, what our kids need to do, what has been done, and what has not. If you’re homeschooling multiple children, checklists are essential. However, we can easily fall into the trap of feeling as if we are slaves to the list. And we certainly want to avoid having a checklist mentality when it comes to teaching and learning. Ideally, we want our kids to enjoy the process of learning (at least sometimes!) and not just get the work over with. More importantly, we want to set an example for our children that nurturing relationships are more important than completing tasks.
Over my many years of homeschooling, I’ve come up with as system that has allowed us to use checklists without being stressed out by them. Here’s what we do:
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Here’s a project I recently completed for my third and fifth grader: I made a reading comprehension workbook for 20 saints stories from Anne Heffernan’s 57 Stories of Saints. When possible, I like to combine subjects. This workbook will allow my kids to learn about the inspiring lives of twenty saints while sharpening their reading comprehension skills. Take a look:
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How’s your summer going? I hope you have fun plans lined up and some time to enjoy a slower pace of life. One thing I always do in the summers is establish a new routine for chores. When new chores become habitual in the summer, the coming school year goes more smoothly… and it helps a lot!
Another thing I work on during the summer is teaching my kids to be orderly. I wish I were one of those people who are oblivious to clutter, socks on the floor, and toys randomly scattered throughout the house. Instead, for better or worse, I’m kind of a neat freak. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I have learned to put on my blinders and ignore scattered toys, especially the path of destruction left by Hurricane Junior, (a.k.a. the three-year-old). However, order is an important virtue. So it’s something we work on throughout the year, but especially during the summer.
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Recently, the kids and I undertook a huge project: we painted the kitchen cabinets. That is, we scrubbed the cabinets, dismantled them, sanded them, primed them, painted them, and painted them again and again. We also boiled, scrubbed, and spray painted the old hinges so we could reuse them.
Truth be told, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we started.
Continue reading “Painting Kitchen Cabinets, Conscience, and Confession in the Rain”
One thing I always enjoy each year is attending a homeschooling conference. Not only do I get to learn from inspirational speakers, I also get to catch up with old friends and browse new curricula. If I come to a conference feeling worn out from the school year, I usually leave energized and encouraged.
Of course, this summer many homeschooling conferences have been canceled. So I was glad to hear about the Catholic Homeschool Conference, which is online and FREE.
And whether you’ll be homeschooling in the fall or not, this conference will have talks relevant to all Catholic families.
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This one’s for the Dads — the generous, hard-working, unsung heroes of our day. And in honor of my own incredible father, I’m reprinting a post my brother wrote years ago about our Dad and the invaluable lessons he imparted:
Let me be the first to point out that I’m no parenting expert, psychologist or self-help guru. In fact, I’m not an expert on anything in particular. I’m just a regular guy who loves muscle cars and vintage motorcycles, and my loving wife and kids. Like most of you younger dads out there, I’m just trying to navigate through life while raising two daughters in this crazy world of ours.
Growing up the only boy in a family with two sisters, I quickly learned to navigate the unique peculiarities common to the fairer sex, and somehow I survived the confusing period of my adolescent years.
Luckily for me, my dad was a great role model who, among other things, helped me understand that one of the secrets to getting far in this world isn’t “figuring out” women, but rather knowing how to treat them.
Fast forward 20 years or so and I find myself in my dad’s position; surrounded by kids and a wife. I’m definitely thankful that I had a great role model to impart unto me some priceless lessons about being a father (of daughters) which I’ll impart on to you. Needless to say, if I had sons, these points would be on the top of my list of lessons to teach them as they ventured into manhood, as my father taught me.
Now consider these thoughts for a moment.
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It’s that time of year again — you know, when we start thinking about the coming school year. With all the craziness of this pandemic, I’ve been grateful that we are a homeschooling family and our lives have not been turned upside down. Actually, it’s been nice not running to one activity after another. It’s been really nice having my highschoolers home all day. They’ve been playing music together in the evenings out on the deck and having wild games of hide and seek all over the house and yard with their younger siblings.
But getting back to the point of this post: Many of you are thinking about new curricula for the coming year. Usually in May, my homeschool group does a curriculum share fair, where we bring our favorite books to a hostess’ home and place them on several tables. Then we wander around the home and look at all the curricula that people have brought. That’s not going to happen this spring, but we can certainly share online! So I asked my kids to tell me their favorite curricula from this year. Here’s what they chose:
Continue reading “Our Favorite Homeschool Curriulum this Year (2019-2020)”