I am preparing to homeschool Joey. This is a daunting prospect, to say the least. Joey is very smart yet very determined to dislike schooling of all kinds. I was reminded of this today as I attempted, completely unsuccessfully, to administer a standardized test.
The reason we decided to homeschool Joey is that he has trouble completing his work at school. Some of this work ends up coming home, in addition to his homework load, to be completed at night when he is least able to focus. The nightmare that this became for our family (parents, siblings and most of all Joey himself) was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It was my thought that if I had him fresh in the morning, I could get him through his coursework before his afternoon slump and avoid the late afternoon homework situation completely. In addition, I figured I could work with his natural tendency toward good and bad days, laying off when needed and making it up when possible.
This all sounds great in theory, but in reality, can I get him to do his work at all?
Granted, I was not wise in my testing today. He had an earache and was overtired; I should know better. However, I am finding myself, just 3 weeks before school is to begin, questioning my curriculum and considering changing things around completely. In order to get the new curriculum in time, I had to get him through the placement test quickly. Turns out, that wasn't such a good idea. Smart boy that he is, he is quite aware that he has already taken one such placement exam (for the old curriculum) and, very much like his mother, does not like to do things over.
To further complicate the matter is the reason I am considering new curriculum in the first place. My original enrollment has been with Seton. I like the daily lesson plan, the all-in-one ease of the program and the cohesiveness of it all. It truly seems to be "Homeschool for Dummies" (no offense intended, I just mean it is like garanimals...it is hard to mess up if you follow the instructions). I think this is a good place for me to start.
However, when Joey was recently skimming his textbooks he pointed out to me just how religious they are and took offense to this. "Can't just one book not have God in it?" he asked. I thought good and hard about this before responding.
While I absolutely believe that all life should center around God, do I also believe that anything secular is bad? Not at all. I am not choosing to homeschool so that Joey will never be exposed to a secular viewpoint. It is my job as his parent and teacher to be sure that he learns Christian values in the context of our secular world. As Joey rightly pointed out to me, the only overtly religious textbook he had last year in his wonderful parochial school was his religion book. The rest were just math, just science, just handwriting. And I couldn't be more pleased with his spiritual development to date.
As I went through the Seton books again, I was amazed to see that every sentence in the handwriting book had something to do with religion. Every book report was about a saint (again, these have their place but isn't a boy entitled to read Captain Underpants occasionally, especially if he is a very reluctant reader?). Even the math word problems were about counting holy cards and rosaries. It is too much.
If I cram religion down his throat instead of letting him witness it through our daily lives, is he not more likely to turn away from it? In saying this, I must clarify that I in no way wish to curtail his religious education. I want him to thoroughly know and understand the beauty of our faith, because I believe it is not always evident without education. But is his soul going to be damaged if he practices handwriting with the absence of religion? To the contrary, I think it will be kept more intact in the long run.
To make a long story short, on the advice of a friend of Jay's from Opus Dei, we have investigated the California Virtual Academy. It is a public school curriculum that we will supplement with religion. So far I like what I see. Now, I know to be careful of seeming innocent secular materials slanting historical events in a way unflattering to the church. And I know how prevalent our cultural horrors can be in secular textbooks. But am I not the one in charge here? Can I not present the material in any way I like? Plus, in 3rd grade I am not concerned that a subliminal message he receives on Christopher Columbus' voyage is going to overrun all that he learns from his family about the church.
So, here I am at a crossroads. New textbooks? I think so. Can I get him through another placement test? We'll see. Will I fail miserably and send him back to Sacred Heart before Christmas? Perhaps. But I hope not.
All I know is that I desperately want to do what is best for Joey. Ultimately, I care far less about his academic development than I do his spirituality and overall happiness. However, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to educate him solidly academically as well.
I know that many of you who read this blog homeschool already. I welcome your comments on this topic as I am admittedly naive. Anything sounds different before you actually do it. Any tips on getting a reluctant learner through his work? Any thoughts on secular versus Catholic textbooks? Help please! This mom needs input and encouragement.