Getting Started (Homeschooling from Day One)

Some Suggestions for Preparing to Homeschool your children from the beginnning:

Since I was homeschooled myself, I've been thinking about the idea for quite some time. My younger brother and I spent many hours discussing the merits and possibilities of homeschooling. By the time I was married I was fairly certain that I would homeschool my children. When I started reading things about homeschooling, though, I was disappointed to find very little information that specifically addressed parents who were going to homeschool their children from the beginning and gave people an idea of how to prepare for such an undertaking. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of wonderful information that's useful to homeschoolers at that stage, but I wanted someone to answer questions like - when do I start?

The following is a list of things that we have found useful in preparing to homeschool our children:

Pray! Can't give you better advice than that. That'll help you answer all the major questions of course - am I really supposed to homeschool? when do I start? what curriculum do I use? will my kids be socialized???? Remember when praying for successful homeschooling to define that success according to God's plan for your children. Beware of tyrannical societal conventions.

Read! Read lots of good books to your children. I think the Lives of the Saints and stories from the Bible are two of the most important areas to cover in your reading. But I also think it would be a mistake to limit the stories to ones with "religious" content. I recommend reading For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer McCauley. It has some excellent pointers for choosing books and ideas on how to read and discuss them with your children.

Here are some booklist books that will be a great help in finding wonderful stories to share with your children:

  • Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist
  • For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann
  • A Landscape with Dragons by Michael O'Brien
  • A Picture-Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson
  • Reading the Saints by Janet McKenzie

Read! Take the time now to read some of the good books about education (see Books About Education for some suggestions). Remember that you aren't required to read every word. You can skip the sections on teenagers and pulling your kids out of school (for now). Write down a few thoughts - things that you liked from each book. Talk ideas through with your spouse and perhaps some friends (especially homeschooling ones). Read some wonderful blogs written by Catholic Homeschool families (each with their own unique challenges, ideas and methods).

Here are a few blogs to get you started:

You can find more Catholic Homeschool Blogs here.

Try to start developing an idea of what you want for your children's education, but don't expect to have it all figured out before your oldest starts kindergarten! You can also check out our page on providers of Catholic Homeschool Programs.

Read! Read good books to yourself to continue your own education (no matter how much education you've had in the past). This will be useful to homeschooling in two particular ways. You will have increased your knowledge base (and of course given your brain a little more exercise) and you'll be able to discuss those books with your children when they reach the right age. Even if you read nothing else, be sure to delve into the Bible and The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Don't forget to look into a few of the subjects that aren't exactly your strong points.

Learn right now! Don't spend all your time thinking and preparing for future homeschooling. Right now your children are eager and ready to learn all kinds of neat stuff. That doesn't mean you need to go out and buy them stacks of workbooks. Spend a lot of time with them doing puzzles, reading, playing outside, observing nature out-of-doors, playing with blocks, drawing, talking about things... There's no time like the present. Also, don't worry too much about waiting till they're "old enough" to appreciate a certain book, game etc. (within reason). Try out interesting things with your children - maybe they'll love learning the Greek Alphabet! Have fun.

Buy Stuff! (Moms usually like this part, but we recommend a budget - especially when you're just getting started.)

When my oldest was two we decided to set aside a small portion of our monthly budget to spend on educational materials. We're really saw the fruits of this decision by the time our oldest was doing *somewhat* more formal homeschool for Kindergarten. We had a very nice collection of books and manipulatives that would have been impossible to purchase in one big lump. Over the years, we've made a particular effort to buy things that will last for a long time (good quality) and are useful for a broad age range. Because we were serious about collecting good things for homeschooling we started reading many books about education, perusing catalogs and keeping our eyes out at garage sales and used bookstores ($20 a month goes a lot farther at a garage sale).

Warning: I've heard that some people make the mistake of buying materials early that they never end up using. Use common sense here. You don't need to buy a first-grade curriculum when your child is two (your whole philosophy of education may have changed in that much time). But, you can begin filling your house with interesting books and toys and movies that will spark their imagination and satisfy their curiosity. Keeping a minimal budget wll help you to choose materials carefully and not overwhelm yourself with too many resources.

We've also discovered over the years that getting involved in the local library - particularly to the extent of suggesting good non-fiction materials with broad interest (and low agenda!) can be really helpful and add a rewarding piece to the dynamics of your children's education.

Think "Learning": Make your home a place of learning. Develop good attitudes about learning in your family. Books should be very accessible - more accessible than the television. Hang up beautiful art (even if it has to be with thumbtacks!) and play beautiful music. Don't be afraid to have a map of the world in the living room - it goes with any decor! Don't expect to have a perfect house, but let the children help out with what they can. Don't forget to have fun.