Just looking at the title of her first talk, “How to Make Homeschooling Easy”, made me roll my eyes. Oh, heavens, not another one of those people: all jeans jumpers, daily mass, never miss a family rosary, all our kids are two grades ahead and want to be priests or nuns, life is always just wonderful, sure homeschooling can be stressful- but only because you must not be doing it right!
In spite of my misgivings, I attended her talk. Partially because I had even less interest in the other speaker in that time slot, partially because I figured she would have some good ideas anyways, even if I didn’t agree with her overall views. I wound up being very glad I went.
The guy in charge of that speaker room introduced her, finishing with the mandatory, “Please stand and welcome our speaker…” (Catholic habit, I think; that’s the habitual verbage for the beginning of mass, fitting in right after “Please silence your cell phones,” and right before the hymnal number for the opening song. Most speakers looked a little perplexed and/or amused at a standing ovation before the speech.)
The first words out of her mouth were something along the lines of, “That’s a typo. You can’t make homeschooling easy. Maybe easier, but not easy. If you really wanted easy, go ahead and go listen to Father’s talk over in speaker room #2. I’ll wait while you leave.”
She then organized the talk around the premise that a) you need to keep homeschooling simple and doable: “The best homeschooling is the stuff you do.” If you have piles of great ideas, enrichment activities, Latin and Greek, etc. but don’t get any of it done, then scale back to what you can really do. And b) you need to remember why you’re doing it. Although, as she pointed out, “It’s June; right now, most of you are so numb, you don’t remember what you had for breakfast, let alone why you’re doing [homeschooling]!”
Everyone is going to have slightly different lists of “Why we homeschool”, but Seuffert suggested these:
- 1. Make saints- we already have too many smart, sinful Catholics.
- 2. Raise responsible citizens- The U.S. is good; let’s make it better.
- 3. Have a peaceful, serene, loving Christian home.
- 4. Teach better than institutional schools.
- 5. Be good stewards of our children- health, fitness, talents, travel.
Then, she broke it down by reason. (Yes, I’m not discussing all of them. Go get the tapes if you want the whole talk.)
1. If you live twenty minutes from church, and it takes you fifteen minutes to get the kids loaded up, then daily mass may take up half your morning and it might not be a workable idea for you. Instead, make a spiritual communion.
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Also, she recommended a daily offering. Here is one sample from Catholic Online:
O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recom- mended by our Holy Father this month.
As homeschoolers, we can (and have to) constantly and patiently correct our children; no teacher can do it like we can. We need to “patiently bear daily contradictions” and offer them up. (Yeah, I get a lot of contradictions: “But, Mo-ooom!”)
4. She encouraged parents to choose parent-friendly materials, stuff that isn’t just “everyone says this is best”, but materials that make the parents’ job easier. Avoid trends, and use Catholic materials where possible (especially in science and history). Seuffert also suggested that parents “get the book and be happy with it.” If you don’t like it by the end of the year, pick something different next year, but avoid jumping around curriculums during the year.
After enjoying her first talk, I made sure I made it to her second talk, “Discipline.” Some of it was about discipline, but it also blended into order in the home, which, of course, has something to do with order in the child’s mind. Short, sweet summary:
- Homeschooling is the start of discipline; a teacher is not a discipline solution.
- Have an actual, posted schedule. She recommended A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. I’ve read it; I didn’t do everything she suggested, but it is a great book.
- Get up half an hour before the kids: pray, read the paper, have a solid thought. (At least one thought, longer than three seconds, without interruption.)
- Start school at the same time every day. Give each child something to do so that, even if you’re changing a diaper or doing laundry, they can start on time.
- End by 3pm, get kids outside or something, play with the baby.
- Give the children real work to do, not just busy work. (I’ll vouch that that works well for Diva; she grouses about it, but she winds up happier after she’s done.)
- Put the kids to bed at the same time every night.
(Amusing anecdote on the bedtime question. Seuffert’s husband works irregular hours and sometimes gets home close to the kids’ bedtime. He’ll object, “Oh, but I didn’t see them all day…” Yeah, she replied, well I did; I’ve seen a lot of them all day. It’s time for, “I love you, and I’m ready to love you from a distance now…”)
I’m not going to give away all her points; part of my point is to give the highlights, give homeschoolers some ideas to chew on that I found thought-provoking, and point you to the website to get tapes if you want more info.
But I will end with a quote that has probably made me a permanent fan of Ginny Seuffert, because I secretly suspected that I was the only *awful* mommy who said things like this. On naptime, especially for older children: “I don’t care if you’re tired. Go do something quiet… and out of my line of vision!”