Monday, April 18, 2011

Homeschoolers’ Success Silences the Critics.

No one expected it. My co-author Theresa Thomas and I certainly did not. As contestants in the Reader’s Choice Awards, we had no reason to think that our Stories for the Homeschool Heart book would win. Rave reviews–some from very high places–had convinced us that our stories were just as uplifting and engaging as our nonobjective opinions had thought. Yet, we seemed out of the league of our competition–one of the Pope’s books, a radio talk show host, a Jesuit priest and an author who had shared her story at a World Youth Day. When our book was announced as a finalist, we expected nothing more than to have a good run at it; especially when ardent emails and radio appeals from our competitors reached our attention.
Yet, last month, with over 10,000 votes cast, Bezalel Books announced that Stories for the Homeschool Heart had been selected as the 2011 Readers’ Choice Award for best Catholic Book of 2010. Wow! That was uplifting news in between spelling, laundry and math. How did we pull it off? Why would a homeschool book win such an award? For one, big families and strong networking are powerful allies in a voting contest. Perhaps the best part of winning this award is that it is one more brick in the wall of building up the public image of homeschooling.
Below is a recent article I wrote for non-homeschoolers to explain what is going on behind our doors, on dining room tables, on garage sale desks or any assortment of school rooms.
Homeschooled children are _______. Fill in the blank. Some would say: responsible, respectful, advanced or mature. Others prefer words like immature, un-socialized, nerdy or sheltered.
In spite of the movement graduating from fringe to almost mainstream, opinions about homeschooling run the gamut. Whatever you may think about it, homeschooling is growing at 8% a year with no signs of abating. Estimates range from 1.5 to 2 million children schooling at home in the United States. Surveys indicate that 10% are Catholic.
For the last 15 years, I have homeschooled eight of my 10 kids through junior high. I can offer some insights from personal experience as well as observation.
Homeschooling allows children to learn at their own pace at home without peer pressure. Parents choose curricula and pass down their values without contradiction or compromise. How this is accomplished varies family to family — from “un-schooling,” where a child’s interests drive much of the learning, to very structured learning.
There are pros and cons to homeschooling but, in the end, like everything in life, I believe a parent should only enter into the endeavor if she or he discerns God’s call to it. Homeschooling must begin and end with prayer. Many homeschoolers did not think it was something they would ever do, but through prayer, came to think otherwise.
Are Homeschoolers Weird or Anti-social?
I’ve done public, Catholic and homeschool. I have been invited to speak to 14 different non-homeschooling audiences. Two of these were in seemingly enemy territory: a professional teachers’ association (Phi Delta Kappa) and a senior class of education majors from the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. In both cases, I think my audience came away surprised that our different camps need not consider one another enemies.
For twelve years in a row, I have spoken during “Education Issues Day” to our Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Committee. Committee members are selected annually from various businesses. It’s a prestigious honor for which they are excused from work. They spend several days throughout the year listening to presenters and learning more about our community on everything from business and education to leisure and the arts.
I’m invited each year by the chair, Marilyn Johnson, a retired sixth-grade teacher who, ironically, taught my oldest son the year before we began homeschooling. Marilyn and I always chuckle over that. She was a good teacher. One of the best. So we both understand that homeschooling is about far more than teachers.
“Who thinks homeschoolers are weird? Raise your hand,” I always begin. Inevitably, people look around. Some hands shoot up right away. “Raise your hands,” I repeat. “You aren’t going to hurt my feelings. I used to think homeschoolers were weird.” With that encouragement a few more hands cautiously go up.
“If you know people who homeschool, some may mix in so well that you can’t really tell where their kids go to school,” I continue. “But you may know some homeschooled kids who dress out of style or somehow look like they don’t fit in.” Usually, a few heads nod in agreement. “Well, you know what?” I ask and then pause for effect. “They probably don’t care. They don’t have to. But kids in regular school have to dress just like everyone else or they pay a price: They become shark bait. At home, kids can be who they are and not worry about being made fun of.”
From the expression on faces, I see this is a novel thought for some. Their own judgments are exposed for being just what they are in schools: social straightjackets of conformity.
My talk continues. “If a homeschooled kid is shy, people say: ‘Well, he homeschools.’ And yet, there are shy kids in schools but no one ever says they are shy because they are in school. My five siblings and I were shy until after high school.”
“After seven years of homeschooling my kids,” I add, “I listened to my siblings commiserate about their kids during adolescence — more self-conscious, worried about fitting in, not willing to step out alone. It hit me that my own children blossomed during adolescence, becoming very outgoing and confident. Could the difference be the lack of peer pressure in their learning environment?”
Balanced Socialization
The first thing most want to know is: What about socialization? I point to a study conducted at the University of Florida by Larry Edward Shyers, Ph.D., who published his thesis, Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students, in 1992. Observing through a one-way mirror, researchers rated children on various markers of positive and social behaviors. The researchers did not know which children were homeschooled. On maturity and socialization skills, the homeschooled children scored in the 84th percentile. The demographically matched sample of public-school children only scored in the 27th percentile.
After analyzing the data, Smedley concluded: “In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.”
Other studies have shown similar results.
This information always impresses my audience. “Think about it,” I say. “In a classroom of 25 students and one adult, who are students modeling themselves after most? And which kids exhibit the greatest influence — the loud-mouthed bullies or the quiet, well behaved ‘A’ students? We all know it’s too often the loudmouths.”
When I spoke to the teachers’ group, my audience all nodded their heads in agreement.
It is at this point that I sympathize with teachers. They have a very challenging job and their role in society is very important. “I’m not homeschooling because I don’t like teachers,” I explain. “I do it because of the opportunity it presents —things that I do not expect of a public-school teacher. At home, I can hand down my religious faith, my kids learn in an atmosphere without peer pressure, we have the freedom to explore topics in depth and take field trips, and we don’t lose our kids to a world where friends are more important than family.”
From Incredulous to Intrigued
People want to know if kids really learn at home. I explain that, when I first read of kids thriving and doing better academically at home, I questioned whether I could duplicate such results. Once we began homeschooling, I understood why homeschoolers average 80% and above across standardized testing for math and reading. It’s largely a matter of a child getting individual attention and going at his own rate rather than getting held back or pushed ahead. For instance, if my child gets half the answers wrong on a page of English, we go back over it before continuing on. Likewise, when my child completes one lesson he can move right along to the next.
This past year on Education Issues Day, I followed a speaker representing a local community college. He explained that the online courses were being met with great enthusiasm. “The students tend to do better on these courses,” he stated, “because they can work independently and at their own pace.”
“Bingo!” I thought and later recalled this speaker’s point to my audience.
Towards the end of my talk, I start getting highly focused questions. Where do you get your curriculum? What are the requirements? How do you teach subjects you don’t know well yourself?
When it comes to choosing a curriculum, options abound. There are Catholic, secular and online courses, correspondence schools and even video courses. Parents can get the answer keys to textbooks and tests but it’s also an opportunity to learn along with the kids. Many communities have support groups — do an Internet search or ask around among homeschoolers — and there are annual conferences with speakers and curriculum fairs.
If you are interested in schooling at home, check with your state’s Department of Education to learn the specific requirements.
Homeschooling is not for everyone. And many homeschoolers eventually enroll in school or at least take a few classes in the higher grades. “We are not against the public schools,” I point out in my presentations. “We live in this community and we want our schools to be strong.”
I homeschool because my husband and I felt God directed us down this path. After eighth grade, our children attend a good Catholic high school. Thus far, all eight of the older ones have done very well in school both academically and socially. But I know kids who homeschooled all the way through high school and went on to excel at college.
Homeschooling is not a magic wand that automatically improves students or families. It requires hard work, dedication — and one other thing.
If you’re a Catholic parent discerning a possible call to homeschool your kids, remember: Homeschooling begins and ends with prayer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Compensation for Moms

What if moms were compensated by the government to stay at home with their children from birth until they graduate from high school? How different would our future generation look? If you were to interview criminals how often would you find that their background contributed almost 100% to their crimes? How many drug addicts and alcoholics are trying to get away from the pain of the past? How many teen pregnancies have occurred between 3 pm when school dismissed and 6pm when their parents get home? How many people who are homeless can trace so much back to their upbringing? How many times have you heard “my mom had to work 2 jobs to put us through school so she wasn’t there for me”? How many studies show that teens and young adults in gangs are there because they want a family, the family they never had at home?
What would life look like if instead of throwing the people in jail that are trying to escape their past through drugs, alcohol, and gang related crimes, we found the root of the problem? What if we dug to the deepest depth of why these crimes occur instead of trying to put a band aid on the cut what if we got rid of what caused the cut in the next generation?
There was a time before the 1960’s when less gangs, drug addicts and teen pregnancies. Was it correlated to a mom being home? Did it have something to do with the fact that the children and teens knew that moms were home in all the neighborhoods and they watched what was happening and intervened? There was a time when moms did not have to work and their first priority was their family, their husband, children and home life. There was less divorce. There was less stress on the family. There was a person who had a role in life that held the family together, that raised the children that helped with homework that was an advocate of her children’s education that worked on her marriage that did it all. Was it overwhelming, of course it was? Were the women ready to be liberated and find their own independence of course they were. Is there a way to find a happy median between those two worlds?
I propose that there is. What if the moms who want to stay home with their children and are not seeking to be career women were compensated for their role as a mom? What would happen if even the career moms would only have to work part time because they are compensated for being a mom? What would happen if the compensation was given to those who want to stay at home, raise their children, and get involved with their child’s education, sports and activities? What would happen if we raised our children within a stable atmosphere where they knew that someone was always there for them? A place where they were completely loved and bonded with a parent? What if that child came first in that mom’s life because she didn’t have to worry about holding down a job so the lights would stay on in the house and that the mortgage would be paid? What would happen if that child had time to spend with that mom to learn manners, respect, work ethic and how relationships work? What if that mom had the time to take care of the house, laundry, cooking, cleaning, school commitments etc. so the stress of catching up rarely occurred? What would our future generation look like if moms were home to give that child a hug, sit down at the table and do homework together? Studies have proved that regardless of the institute or level of education if a parent is not involved with the child’s education it is rare for the child to succeed. It’s difficult to be involved when we are at work, running errands, fighting with our spouses because we are overstressed by all the demands of life as a two parent working family is..
If the government could see how much compensating a mom would change the face of our society I think they would invest. Not compensating with $50,000/yr maybe $20,000 like a part time job. How much does it take to keep one criminal alive in prison for 1 year? I found stats between $30 – $40. It would be an investment that would save so much money for the government. Would we still have crimes, drug addicts, gangs, murder, and prostitution? Of course we would have crime but it would decrease dramatically if as children these people had a sense of stability, security, purpose, confidence and love in their lives, guaranteed!!
Is there really a more important job in life than raising a child to be a responsible and caring adult that contributes to society? What job holds more importance than how we form the future generation? Everyone thinks the key is education and that is a huge piece but the bigger piece is the foundation that surrounds and encompasses the life of a child/teen/young adult and that can only come through a loving, stable family. Don’t we want our family life back? Without time to build it, nurture it and grow it, this will never happen and the unrest will continue. We can’t go back to the 1950’s, we have learned too much and we women need our rights and independence but we can learn from the neglect of the family (not solely due to the “working mom”, but to the breakdown of the family as a unit). What needs to change, what’s going to break if we don’t change?
Compensate the moms that want to be full time moms and watch a good percentage of our future transform for the better. Give that opportunity to more moms and you will find more stay at home moms that will change our world for the best.
(This article is taken from the website You can subscribe to it and they send daily articles to help you be a good mother and a good Catholic too.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Fulfilling Results
When my husband Phil first mentioned the idea of homeschooling our three children, I tried to pretend I hadn't heard him. Even though I was an experienced classroom teacher, I had seen a number of successful homeschool moms and had thought, "But I don't have their placid temperament or their particular strengths." What I soon learned was that God uses each parent's strengths to provide a unique environment for the family, and they are led into many new and broadening experiences.
Now that our three children are all adults in their 20s, Phil and I have the incomparable joy of seeing them happy and fulfilled in the area of life and service to which God has called them at this time. Much to our delight, our two sons have married and both are committed to teaching their own children at home.
—Beverly Jones

Confidence for the Future
I remember when we started homeschooling in 1985. I wondered if I could keep homeschooling once we reached high school. I wanted my children to be in a healthy atmosphere, spiritually and emotionally, but could I really prepare them for college and a future career?
Benjamin, the oldest of our four children, attended the College of William and Mary on a full-tuition academic scholarship. He is now the speech writer for senator John Gornyn (TX). Emily, our second-born, is a junior at the University of Virginia. Following in their footsteps, Ellis, our second son, is using the University of Nebraska's Independent High School program, and 8-year-old Florence is enjoying her 4th grade Calvert School lessons. I am so grateful for the daily time I get to spend with each of them, especially now that the older ones are leaving the nest.
If you feel God is calling you to continue homeschooling during the high school years, let me encourage you—you can do it, with his help. Though we've had the typical ups and downs of homeschooling life, I can now look back on the results of my daily efforts, and have confidence that he's prepared them for whatever the future holds.
—Jeanne Domenech

Definitely Prepared
My parents decided to homeschool me because I had speech problems, and they didn't want to expose me to the teasing of school children. They taught me from kindergarten through 12th grade. I loved my "school" experience, and I don't believe I ever wanted to attend a traditional school, public or private. It gave me the unique opportunity to truly grow up with my three siblings. And I was involved in many activities, including 4-H, AWANA Bible club, and volunteering at a local hospital. Today, as a 2002 graduate of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, having earned a business administration degree with concentrations in accounting and information systems, I already have a job as a full-time accountant. Looking back on my schooling experience, I was definitely prepared for college—emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
—Carrie Ireland

Sunday, April 3, 2011

GOOD NEWS! Violet delivered a beautiful baby boy last Monday. She was in hospital with complications-placenta previa and finally they operated on Monday. But due to excessive bleeding, she had to lose the uterus, which was very upsetting for the family. This is their fifth child, a blessing and a miracle. The children are Esmee, Ethel, Euban, Evaly and now the son born will have beginning two letters EW in his name.Please pray for this unique family as Milagres the father is a prolife leader in Goa. He is President of Artists for Life, Goa which is an affiliate of HLI International.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Glenn, Auriel, KAN, Charis Ann and Suzanne/Daniel.