by Kathleen Blease
One day, the boys and I were watching old family videos. When they were little, I loved grabbing the old VHS camera and taped anything they might have been doing--from munching on graham crackers to finger painting to swimming in the pool. In the video, I could see that our kitchen wall was covered in drawings and paintings, papier mache crafts, and even puppets made out of paper plates.
Every day was an adventure. Story time at ten. A walk at eleven. Classical music during lunch time. Then after nap time, it was an afternoon of arts and crafts. We took trips to the public library every week, without fail, and lugged home a stack of picture story books that kept our imaginations flying. I loved them just as much as the boys did!
When our oldest turned five, it was time to send him to school. It never occurred to us to educate him in any other way. Off he went to Catholic school, and his little brother stayed home. We played mancala, Uno, checkers, and even chess to pass the time. We sorted, counted, added, named colors and created new ones. We dug in the dirt, blended paints, glued, and built with legos and made a contest out of who could make the craziest invention. We even competed over who could build something out of only yellow legos, or just red, or blue, and so on. Or using just onesie, twosies, and foursie legos.
Then our younger boy went to Kindergarten, and our time together was reduced to dinner and story time right before bed. By the time he was in first grade, and still refusing to read--and thus falling far behind his classmates, despite the school's special tutoring--it was obvious we needed to take our children's education into our own hands.
When we first started homeschooling, I had plenty of anxieties about providing our children with a proper education. For the first week, my hand shook as I placed it over my heart and faced our classroom flag and recited the pledge of allegiance. Questions loomed over me: "What am I going to do with them today? Will my lesson plans work? What am I going to do with Mr. I-Won't-Read? Can I adequately teach the boys math and science?"
Little by little, I got to know our boys and their individual needs: Son-number-one needed academic challenges, while our little guy needed to take scholarly baby steps, each one well planned to get him to our goal of developing a love of reading and writing. I planned those steps myself, using only my mother's instincts and lots of prayers.
My baby is now beginning seventh grade, and his brother high school. Both are strong readers and writers. Never did I dream that my anti-book first grader would grow to love H.G. Wells, Jack London, and Mark Twain. Nor did I plan that my oldest would have his own blog and comic book.
Indeed, there is one thing I have to admit that I realized only in retrospect: We've been homeschooling our children from the very beginning--since they were just a few months old and we played on the floor face-to-face. All the fingerpaintings, story time, arts and crafts, weekly trips to the library, and walks about town planted healthy seeds of learning!
If you ever wonder if you can homeschool, ask yourself these simple questions: Do you play with your child? Have you been playing with your child ever since he was a tiny babe? Then you are a homeschooler. No one knows your child like you do. All those hours together have given you a very special insight that no other educator can possess, regardless of how skilled or experienced she is. Your parental instincts and pure intentions are priceless!
Parents are indeed the primary educators of their children. The Church agrees. The Pope agrees. In Deuteronomy, Moses instructs his people to teach their children...when they are at work, when they are rest, when they are at home, when they are away. He doesn't instruct the parents to be sure to find good teachers; he tells them to be the teachers themselves. And he assures them that their efforts will be blessed.
This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!