When we first decided to homeschool we had a surge of energy to create a fun learning environment for our children. We used this energy to prepare by reviewing the lesson plans and the books that came with the curriculum we purchased. We made a schedule that included specific days in the week where the kids would do art, music and physical education. We enjoyed gathering materials and supplies we thought would be useful and fun for the kids. We quickly established a full supply of Play-Doh, glitter glue and crayons. The kids were excited when they each received their own learning "tool box".
We started school in the beginning of September and the first thing we noticed was how easy the mornings were for everyone. There was no rush for any of the children to wake up at a certain time. There was no rush to eat or to get out the door. There was so much less stress to start the day. My wife focused on what she needed to do before work and I focused on the children. Most mornings, we actually were able to sit together as a family to eat breakfast. My wife was able to set her schedule for work without having to plan to drive anyone to the bus stop. What a blessing!
I think we lucked out in starting homeschool while the kids are young. In the beginning my older son was starting 2nd grade and my oldest daughter started kindergarten. So the lesson planning was very light work for us. Their curriculum focused on age appropriate content in math, writing, phonics and reading with some history and science mixed in too. There's a lot of coloring, art crafts and, of course, religion mixed into the lessons. One thing that we greatly appreciate with this curriculum is that it constantly reinforces their religion lessons through the other subjects. For a while, a school day wasn't more than two hours for both of them. This included taking short breaks for distractions such as changing diapers or when one of the younger kids required attention.
By Christmas time in our first year, the curriculum became more complex and we all were ready for a break. I know I was! My wife used the Christmas break to look ahead at the curriculum, do some lesson planning and she also took over some of the teaching while she had some time off. This was great for me because it gave me a break to focus on home projects. She very much enjoys planning, organizing, using different colors to make lists, and all aspects of lesson planning. So when her work schedule picked up again, she actually continued to handle the lesson planning and I took over daily teaching again.
Since that Christmas, we have continued to approach homeschooling the children in the same way. We split up the lesson planning and the teaching for most of the year. Sometimes I handle both if needed and other times I get to have a break. In this way, we are able to share the work load of teaching the children and we are both engaged in how the children are working and developing. We also get to be involved in their education by using our own gifts, talents and interests in ways that are practical for us to be involved in our children's learning. Working together this way excites us because we work really well together and it's important to both of us that we are in this together.
One of the things I enjoy about teaching my kiddos is it allows me to engage with them about things I am passionate about. When I first started as a "stay-at-home-dad", it took me some time to learn to set aside quality time activities with the children. This is hard to do when you're running around "doing all the things". Anyone with young children knows that they crave attention and they need our attention. Homeschooling gives me a way to have quality time with each of them and it helps give them the attention they need from me.
As I reflect back to when we started, I realize that I was under an allusion of what homeschooling should look like. We started homeschooling after we made the decision that it would be best for the family at that time. I know that I went into it trying to imagine what the kids could be missing from a traditional school classroom. I was under the allusion that somehow homeschooling should include the same elements of a brick and motor school classroom. Now I am seeing what they would have missed had we not made this decision.
Catholic homeschool has a different energy, a different rhythm and a whole different purpose and mission.
I read somewhere that the primary goal of Catholic education is to "turn us into little Christs". I love that phrase because it highlights how a Catholic education is concerned primarily with the salvation of souls and continuing the transformation that which begins in us at Baptism. The Catholic Church teaches us that parents receive a grace and privilege in the sacrament of marriage to evangelize our children. It is our mission as parents to teach our children to pray, to discover their vocations as children of God and become "little Christs". Homeschooling has deepened my own desire and passion for raising faithful children. I've learned not to worry much about creating an "ideal learning environment". Instead, I am enjoying witnessing them develop and grow in the faith alongside my wife.