My Teaching Mistakes
If you ask my children about their worst childhood memories, they would probably say, “When we were home schooled.”
Then they'd complain about what a horrible teacher they had, and what a terrible school district they lived in. They didn't like the superintendent very much either.
Five years of home instruction wasn't all bad, but I made a few mistakes. Maybe doing some things differently would have resulted in a better outcome. But maybe my children still wouldn't have been happy.
They claim they barely survived the ordeal. Or at least that's what they tell me and anyone else who happens to ask.
So what went wrong?
Well, just about everything. Amazingly, their academic progress didn't seem to suffer. When I finally relented and put them into a public school, they were two years ahead of where they needed to be.
At the time, I felt fortunate to be able to spend this time at home with my family, teaching academics and our Catholic faith at the same time. But I wish I could reverse the clock and relive some of those years.
Would you like to hear about all of the big and little problems I didn't manage to negotiate? Well, read on and I'll tell you.
I Chose a Boring Curriculum
My children were enrolled in an academically sound home-study program. It was somewhat expensive (a few hundred dollars for each student) and the course materials were beautiful. The Catholic doctrine in the books was solid and it was woven throughout every subject. Even the grammar books had 1940s-style illustrations of religious sisters in habit, speaking to a classroom of well-behaved, clean-scrubbed students.
This really appealed to my desire to educate my children in the Catholic faith, taught just as it had been passed down for centuries. I just knew this program was right for my children. Or was it?
In retrospect, I don't think so. The materials were very visually appealing. There were gorgeous shots of churches and cathedrals from around the world, as well as reprints of medieval art. But some of the lessons were boring and repetitive. There was an awful lot of busy work. My children were bogged down with insignificant details that I believe hampered their learning and their happiness We were tied to this program. Sick days were practically out of the question, because we'd have to do double time the next day.
In hindsight, I wish I had picked another good Catholic program, just as rigorous, but without the endless and useless details. I know they exist.
Curriculum is king and I definitely should have explored other options. This would have made for a much better learning experience.
We Didn't Take Enough Field Trips
We spent little time out of the house because we were tied to an unyielding curriculum. It was nice having everything laid out in a very orderly fashion, and having ready-to-order lesson plans. But I should have deviated a little more in order from them to have time to explore museums and allow my children to participate in additional extracurricular activities. The rigid curriculum precluded a lot of that.
One thing that might have greatly helped was joining a home school co-op for one or more subjects. However, this would have involved travel and I was always afraid to take too much time away from the lessons that imprisoned us.
I Didn't Listen Enough to My Children
There were numerous complaints that they hated the subject matter (curriculum). I started catching on to the fact that maybe we could have found a better option, but it was late in the game. Because our textbooks contained good Catholic information, and passing along the faith was our primary purpose for homeschooling, I underestimated the negative impact of a repetitive, boring format.
This was a big mistake because it might have had the opposite effect of distancing them from Catholic faith that I was trying so hard to teach them. Some of the lessons, especially in the English texts, were sterile and filled with information that had little practical application.
If I could do it all over again, we'd all have had a lot more fun. We would have kept the catechism lessons and discarded some of the grammar books.
We Homeschooled Through High School
I enrolled my daughter in a formal home-study high school, which was probably my biggest mistake. Students this age really need to be around others their age, so they can learn to live in the world. This might expose them to all sorts of people. That's a good thing, because the human population is diverse.
Private Catholic school was out of the question because we couldn't afford the tuition. So the only option was public school. I knew my children would be exposed to much different values than they were taught at home. But this would happen eventually anyway. I'm convinced such situations are handled better while children are still in the house. Otherwise, they'd be sheltered until they headed off to college.
However, this advice doesn't apply to students who already attend high school, but, for whatever reason, aren't happy there. If switching districts isn't an option, then homeschooling might be the best choice.
Just make sure to pick an interesting curriculum.
Did the Experience Ruin my Children?
Not at all. They turned out to be kind, caring human beings who are now trying to find their way in a big, ever-changing world. I really like what kind of people they've become and I'm very proud of their personal growth and academic accomplishments. They get along well with others and they always root for the underdog.
I will be curious to see if they decide to home-school their own children.