Homeschooling 101, Part 1: The Challenges and the Joys

Posted by Caroline Murphy on Apr 28, 2020 7:08:00 AM
Caroline Murphy

Murphy Homeschooling 1 title

New to homeschooling and overwhelmed? I hear you. Though I homeschooled my three children—now 10, 8, and 5—for years, I returned to full-time work in January. Social distancing has been a learning curve for me as I figure out how to weave homeschooling with professional responsibilities. Thankfully, we had a huge leg up given the familiarity of our homeschool routine, formed in the crucible of many mistakes. My hope is to spare you the trouble and give you the benefits I’ve come by the hard way.

It’s helpful to remember that you were made to do this. The Catechism reminds us that parents are their children’s primary educators (§2223). Teachers and loving adults can be invaluable supports; still, the truth is that you’ve been entrusted with the formation of your child. This quarantine can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slow down, recalibrate, and understand your child in a new way. We know that God works for our good in all things (Romans 8:28), and he has a plan to give something beautiful to your family through this time, even if it feels like chaos right now.

To start (and I’m not the first one to say this), what everyone’s attempting right now isn’t homeschooling; it’s crisis management. Homeschooling is a lifestyle shift predicated on patient preparation, with, ideally, a rich array of social supports in place. Right now, the world is upside down, and parents are trying to work full-time while educating their children on the fly, all while deprived of invaluable and vital relationships we normally depend on to weather tough times. It’s helpful to make the conscious mental shift to emergency mode and act from there. When the phonics worksheet isn’t making sense to your six-year-old and you have multiple work deadlines and a toddler that just banged her head on the coffee table, knowing you’re engaging in “crisis management” instead of “homeschooling” helps to de-escalate and prioritize. Phonics can take a backseat for a little while; it’s okay. 

In the newness of the situation, at home with your children, meet them, and give everyone, including yourself, grace. Every family is a living culture unto itself with its own needs and rhythm, and this time of hibernation should reflect that. So, I hope you cherry-pick from the suggestions in this series—find a few things that work for you and leave the rest. I want to encourage, not leave you feeling burdened with more tasks! To that end, the next installment will give ideas to help bolster your child’s natural foundation, to set everyone up for success as much as possible. Part three will focus on routines, education, and the home environment, and part four will simply offer resources. 

Beyond all the suggestions and practical advice, I hope to assure you that, truly, your child needs nothing more than they need your steady presence and open heart. The lessons and activities will come together in time and with patience. There will be hard days, and that’s okay. The Lord himself remains with us in the Eucharist and through the sacraments to be with us, because relationship is built, fiber by fiber of tiny moments, through presence. We can harbor an Easter hope in the fact that God is offering us, through the unexpected cross of corona cocooning, the gift of a deep and abiding presence with our children.

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Topics: education, coronavirus, COVID-19 Resources, homeschooling

Living and Handing on the Faith

The McGrath Institute Blog helps Catholics live and hand on their faith in Jesus Christ, especially in the family, home and parish, and cultivates and inspires everyday leaders to live out the fullness and richness of their faith in the simple, little ways that make up Church life.

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