I am so excited to welcome Melissa Naasko to Orthodox Motherhood today! Lately in our community, several people have been asking questions about homeschooling. As a public school teacher and a mother of kids who attend public school, I am obviously not the person to answer those questions! So, I brought in an expert. 🙂 Melissa is the homeschooling mother of eleven children, a writer, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I know that you’ll enjoy hearing her perspective!
There are a few topics that are especially difficult to broach with other mothers. You know the list: vaccinations, bottle-feeding, sleep training…need I continue?
How we educate our children is quickly becoming one of those things. There is a tension when we begin to talk about it and a palpable sense of judgment.
We worry that someone will judge us as being overprotective for not sending our kids to school, or that we aren’t concerned about worldly exposure if they attend a public school, or maybe that we are less dedicated to our Orthodox Faith if we send them to Catholic schools.
I think that this judgment makes it difficult for people to ask questions when making the decision about schooling and even more difficult to ask for help if they run into challenges along the way no matter what kind of education that our children have.
In the end, this doesn’t help us, our children, or the Church as a whole. I think it is important to have honest conversations and this post about just that kind of communication. So let’s talk about homeschooling and what it is and what it means.
Thinking About Homeschooling: Consider This First
What is homeschooling?
This is not a cut and dry matter. There are a lot of ways that children are homeschooled. Some parents choose to develop their own curricula entirely themselves while others allow children to take the lead.
There are plenty of programs available for home study and these vary from free programs available on the web to paid online programs to options programs provided by the public schools and whole packages of books and materials (and sometimes grading is provided) shipped to your door.
Homeschooling is a pretty varied option and deciding to homeschool actually means deciding to make other decisions.
There are a lot of reasons people choose to homeschool and none is more or less correct than another.
We all have our own abilities, available resources, and existing challenges to consider. This influences not only whether or not our children go to public or private schools versus homeschooling but also how we decide what programs or schools in which our children will be involved.
The first question we need to ask is why we are considering homeschooling? This is an enormous task and you need to have a defined reason. I strongly suggest that you create a mission statement and put it somewhere you can look at it regularly.
I have one and it is on the mirror over the dresser in my bedroom:
We homeschool because educating our children here on the farm keeps
us connected to our Faith and our family and our philosophy of education.
Why not homeschool?
This might be a difficult one to answer because it will likely mean being honest with ourselves about our shortcomings. Homeschooling is real school and it means being actually dedicated to spending time on it. Even unschoolers who choose to have their children be self-directed must create the time and the space to study.
Are you the kind of person who will struggle to get up and get dressed in the morning without the outside pressure of a morning bell? Are you the kind of person who has a hard time putting down the phone when there are chores to be done? Do you have a lot of instability in your life right now? All of these things can be overcome but only if you are honest about it and are not necessarily deal-killers.
Let me be the first to promise you that homeschoolers are not perfect. We have to fight the temptation to stay in bed, to scroll Facebook, and not blow off school for a movie marathon, but you can’t fight your bad habits unless you know what they are. You also need to be honest if this is just not the time in your life to start.
The most important thing is to have a positive educational experience, and there are a lot of ways to accomplish that.
Where to homeschool?
You will need to have a place to study. Families find all kinds of ways of doing this even if they do not have a dedicated room.
-When I was pregnant with the fourth of my eleven children, we lived in a 1,000 square foot house. The two kids who were doing school each had a plastic bin with a lid that held all their things and doubled as a desk on the floor. They could be stacked in the corner when they were done.
-Later we lived with ten children in a large suburban home, and we turned the formal dining room into a full school room with desks and a chalkboard.
-More recently we moved with eleven children to my husband’s family’s farm. With only 1,600 square feet we are down to using a cubby and bin system for each child. They study at the dining room table, or a small round table in the living room which is dedicated to studying, or the coffee table with stools.
-The children in the kitchen are the ones who are online for classes (our children are enrolled in St Raphael’s Online School), and they need to be apart from the other kids while in class. There are any number of ways to find space in your home, but you do need to find some.
When to not homeschool?
If you are homeschooling, then you are not available to do other things. It is just the nature of the beast. I have found that it is enormously helpful to have one day a week that is a flex day.
For us, that day is Friday because it is already the scheduled day for St Raphael’s classes. That day can be used for catch up and for appointments, field trips, grading math and science, cleaning the house, and all the other things that are not done when we are actively schooling.
I have a running list of the things that need to be done and on Fridays, we tackle them one by one. I also set aside the first Friday for working on high school transcripts. Let me tell you, you do not want to have to do that all at once.
Find a mentor!
This is the most critical thing. It doesn’t matter whether your kids are in public school, private school, parochial school, or homeschool, you need a mentor!
There are fabulous mothers out there in the trenches who know all the ins and outs. You need to find them!
If you are looking for advice on where to get uniforms, how to handle the pick-up routine, how to teach a child to read, or what to do with a left-handed child when you are right handed, then you need someone to talk to about it.
It doesn’t matter how you educate your children, there will be good days and bad. That’s all there is to it.
So find someone who can celebrate the good and hold your hand in the bad. A bad day does not mean that you are failing or that you made the wrong educational choice, it means you had a bad day. We all have them. A mentor can help you sort out your challenges and come out on top.
Are you considering homeschooling? Are there other questions you have that I can answer for you? Pop down to the comment section and let me know.
About Melissa Naasko
I am an Orthodox Christian, mother of eleven kids, and author. I like cooking, eating, and knitting. I also like to talk–to myself, to my kids, to my husband, to groups of people whether they are voluntary or involuntary audiences. When the thoughts in my head pile up too high, I write them down. I am the author of Fasting as a Family published by Ancient Faith Media.