Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Seeing the Signs

I guess it's probably been about a year and a half since I first felt the hints of a call to homeschool. I paused for a moment to listen more carefully to that little voice, that urgent whisper, and suddenly it became as loud and clear as a shout through a megaphone. Practically overnight, I became completely enamored with the whole idea. I discoursed at great length with Darren about the multiple merits of home education. I envisioned brilliant, angelic children who would beg to learn more. I marveled at the notion of unlimited and unrestricted learning. I was charmed by the thought of cozy teas and picnics in the park and supplemental outings relevant to current topics of interest. I discovered, at approximately the same time, this great big blogging world of amazing and incredibly talented homeschooling Mommies, and I was completely captivated. Totally gone. Most certainly, and without reservation, this was the way I wanted to be raising and teaching my children!

But then. Then, as I began delving further into the actual reality of homeschooling, that loathsome, overly analytical mind of mine began to sabotage the blissful utopia in which I had been living. I doubted myself: my abilities, my patience, my motivations, everything about which I had previously been so convinced. My resolve began to waver. I doubted whether or not I had actually even heard the call, or if maybe I had somehow misinterpreted it. Sometimes, my mind is my own worst enemy. So I prayed for a sure sign, one that would leave no room for doubt or wonder. I prayed for something, anything, that would assure me I was really leading my family down the right path.

Did I expect bolts of lightning and peals of crashing thunder? I don't know; maybe. Probably. What I got instead was, all at once, many subtle signs that, together, were just as impressive (if not more so) than any electric storm (which could, by my critical mind, be misconstrued as a natural and common occurrence).

So, no--no lightning or thunder. No booming voice from the heavens. But I am absolutely certain that the signs I have received in the past few days can only suggest a call to homeschool. Each and every one that I've received have been a direct response to the issues with which I struggled most. To illustrate: a significant concern of mine has been the lack (or my perceived lack) of a strong Catholic homeschooling community in our area. But last Sunday, while talking with my brother about our upcoming Vacation Bible School experience, he whipped out his phone and said, "Oh! I should introduce you to my friend "Sandy". I teach her kids piano and she homeschools. You'd love her! I'm calling her right now." And without reservation or a second thought, he called her up and chatted a bit about how his sister was planning to start homeschooling this fall and would she be around for VBS at all this week to maybe meet with me? Oh, she would? Well, how perfectly splendid! He hung up and asked me if I had heard her happy squeals of excitement. I had not, but I was so touched to know that his simple request had been met with such enthusiasm! And what's more, she also named for him a few other families that we know from church who I had no idea were homeschooling their children! My brother has promised to introduce us and I'm hoping to meet her sometime this week.

Another thing I've worried about (and believe me, there are plenty!) is my struggle with Dylan and his short attention span, distractibility, and hyperactivity. People close to me swear he has ADHD, and who knows? Maybe they're right. But at this point, I perceive his behavior as being that of a smart and healthy little boy. And over the course of the last year or so, I have seen marked improvement in his behavior, so who's to say that this is not just something he will one day outgrow? I'm willing to take the "wait and see" approach, but I'm not so sure that any traditional school we could send him to would be as tolerant. This was one of the primary reasons that homeschooling sounded so attractive to me to begin with; I want him to have the opportunity to learn in whatever way is best for him, and I know that sitting at a small desk for much of the day would not be compatible with his personality. That being said, I still didn't really know how I planned to teach him, as most of the supplies and materials that I've looked at seem rather geared to a "sit down and learn" style, too. But a few nights ago, Darren came home from Hastings with a book for me that I have not been able to put down since. It is 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum, by Cathy Duffy, and it is amazing. It describes the learning styles of different personalities and identifies certain curriculum that are most compatible with their individual needs. I cannot tell you the tremendous relief it has been to me to have found options about which I had not previously been aware! A few such examples are the Math-U-See program, which I think Dylan would really enjoy as it is so "hands on", and Moving with Math, a similarly engaging approach to math that I could really imagine us loving. There are resources for unit studies, too, which I was really excited to see, and even phonics programs (such as this one) that I think might make a perfect supplement to the materials we're already using (for both Dylan and Caitlyn). Another element I appreciate about this book is that it identifies which curriculum are compatible with Catholic teaching, an important factor for me as I'm considering which components to include. I'm sure that a lot of you other, more experienced homeschooling Mommies are much more aware of the many curriculum options available, but I was really excited to find this book! It has opened my eyes to a whole new realm of possibilities that I doubt I would have otherwise considered.

And finally, let's not forget the one GREAT BIG SIGN that practically fell at my feet last weekend! Such amazing learning materials, and at such a steal! How could I interpret that as anything less than a divine slap in the face, so to speak? Someone up there must really be trying to get my attention! And you know something? I think it's worked.


mom-in-training said...

Melissa, your experience is such a familiar one to me. I went through the exact same process... The idea of homeschooling came about and I thought I was convinced, then doubt set in. But then various signs (that I know were God sent) appeared and now I know I've been called to homeschool. I believe God is calling you to it, as well, and even though we've never met, I can already tell through your blog that you would make a wonderful homeschooler. You've already been doing it for quite some time! :)

As for curriculums, Celeste and I know a homeschooling family that use Math-U-See and really like it. I'm using Horizons this year, but should Alex have trouble with it, I think we'll try the Math-U-See program, too. Sometimes I wonder if he'll need the hands on approach to learning, but only time will tell. That's the beauty of homeschooling. You have options and can change any time you want. It's not set in stone as with the curriculum used in tradional schools. You can do whatever works for your children, even different curriculums for each child. Also, there is an all-in-one curriculum out there called My Father's World ( that you may want to look into. I don't remember it being listed in the Cathy Duffy book.

Please feel free to email any of us homeschooling bloggers - we can be your online support group. I know I'm going to need all the support I can get as my family gets started this year!


Mom to Four said...

It is funny that you should post this entry. I read it as I was finishing up a long post on homeschooling that I began yesterday. It should be there to read by now. Maybe there will be some things to help you there.

I do believe you are being called. If it is meant to be then it will work out. It may not be perfect, but it will be "right." If it is not meant to be and you are open to God's will, then I believe you will know that too. I have to always remind myself that if I am really and truly praying to know God's will in anything, then I will know it. He will not deny such a request. It may not be lightning and thunder like I so often hope for, but it will be there. I will know.

The Cathy Duffy book is a super resource. She has so much to help. Michele has some similar reasons for homeschooling her boys. I think Dylan will flourish as he learns in the home. Be creative with him. Don't tie him down to the desk as it is so easy to want to do. Let him sit down with his phoncis lessons on the floor. Let him do his math at the picnic table. Sometimes the details don't matter.

I am so happy you are going to meet some nearby Catholic homeschoolers. Nothing says you can't start your own support. Start small and easy.

Enjoy the journey. Enjoy picking out the best things for Dylan and your family. Learning should be fun. I really believe you know how to make it fun. You have a gift.

Now, go to it girl!

He who wears the most black wins. said...

I am just grinning for ear to ear. I am so happy for you to be feeling so excited about your call. Your children are so blessed, Melissa.

And, I agree with Celeste, nothing says that you can't start your own little homeschooling support group--start small. Don't get bogged down in the details. You will all just flourish!

Jennifer said...

The pressure can be tremendous - I cried the first day of K and the first day of 1st grade - just feeling this immense weight of their entire education. No words of wisdom, but some understanding here. :)

diana said...

I never felt called to homeschool. I felt there just was no other recourse. Now, 7 or 8 years later I am happy I have done it, but I am more practical expectations on myself and kids have changed.
I see now it was God's will that we do this. It took a long time to get over that there is no Catholic school around (in spite of the nearby parochial school), no orthodox Catholic community left. That for me was the hardest part. I wanted a Catholic utopia! (it's worse when you read the Seton readers that were first printed in the 1940's and there really was a strong sense of community with the parish and the neighborhood).

Michelle said...

I've not used Math-U-See, but everyone one I know who has, has loved it.

I really like Little Angel Readers for their phonics program (sold at Emmanuel Books and probably other places). The teacher's guide has multiple sensory tactics included to reinforce the lessons.

One classical curriculum - Kolbe Academy - I researched way back when had one thing that I'll never forget. According to the literature I read from them, they stated that the number one goal for kindergarten, especially regarding boys, is to get them to sit still for one hour by the end of the year. Reading? Addition? Who cares? You get to move on to First Grade if you can sit still! I promise you, this will be a constant battle at least through 3rd grade in my limited experience. And I don't see my 9 year old changing much in the next 3 or 4 months.

Crafty Mom said...

Enjoy the planning season Melissa! You are soooo creative, that I know you will be great no matter what curriculum you choose. For it isn't the curriculum that makes a learning experience what it is, it is the teacher and student. And who could be a better teacher, than a boy's loving mother?

Let us know your plans, and we will do the same, and hopefully we can all learn from each other.

Jamie said...

I should have read this one first! You are so talented and creative you are going to do so wonderful!!

I have also heard that the Math-U-See program is wonderful, go for it!!

It IS a calling I believe, like so many have said already, so God will help you, He knows your children better than anyone else he and His Blessed Mother will be there to help you through it all!