How I Homeschool: Kendra from Catholic All Year

Last year, before we moved back from South Korea, I stumbled upon Kendra’s blog, Catholic All Year.  In one of the first posts I visited, she mentioned living in southern California.  Ever the extrovert, I commented and mentioned that we were probably moving back to So Cal soon, and we should get together.  Little did I know that Kendra was the most well-connected homeschooler in the greater Los Angeles area.  This girl hooked us up.  Catholic park day?  Check.  Little Flowers Girls Club?  Check.  Field trips and science classes and help with First Holy Communion prep? Check, check, check.  For being an introvert, Kendra really gets around.  Here she is, sharing her homeschool wisdom with us.

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How long have you been homeschooling?
Seven years.

DSC_9107How many kids are in your family? How many are homeschooled?  
We’ve got seven kids. Five will be in school next year: 7th, 5th, 4th, 2nd and Kindergarten.


I mentioned the CA laws regarding homeschooling in my first How I Homeschool post. How does your family comply with these laws?
We are enrolled in a private homeschool, Mother of Divine Grace. They provide a suggested curriculum, and support from an Education Specialist if I have any questions or concerns, they keep my grades, and they check the “legal” box for me. 

My first two years of homeschooling, we did a public homeschool charter. I’m grateful that those programs exist, but since the money wasn’t make or break for us being able to afford to homeschool, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. I really prefer to be able to choose the curriculum I really like, rather than just material that’s approved by the state of California.


If you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?
If it can be done, WE can do it.

2013-08-196What is your homeschooling style?
My style is Old School One Room Schoolhouse. I like memorization, and tried and true material. I like big kids helping little kids. My kids wear uniforms. And shoes. We say the Pledge of Allegiance and our morning prayers. We do calisthenics. Like I said, old school homeschool.  


Do you follow any set curriculum? Why or why not?
Yes. We follow the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum pretty exactly. The only big change I’ve made to the recommended curriculum is to abandon The Writing Road to Reading. 

I tried to make that thing work. Really I did. (See homeschool philosophy above.) But that book is, in my humble opinion . . . THE worst. So we do All About Spelling now.

I prefer a set curriculum, because if I didn’t, I would probably require way too much of my students. This way I feel confident that they are getting a rigorous, proven curriculum, and the kids know when they’re done for the day.


You participate in a variety of homeschool classes and out-of-the-house activities and sports.  Can you tell us about these?  How do they augment your homeschooling?
My kids like doing stuff. I’m SONY DSCkind of a homebody, but not all of my kids are. Intellectually, I understand that it’s good for us to get out of the house and do field trips and participate in sports and enriching activities. 

But I never wake up in the morning and think to myself, “You know what I’d like to do today? Get breakfast and lunch packed up for eight people, and get dinner in the crockpot before 8 am, then drive a couple of hours so I can make small talk while my kids dip candles and have fake Revolutionary War battles.” I never think that. But I know my kids benefit from educational and social pursuits.

So I make sure to schedule those activities for us in advance. If it’s on the calendar, I do it. Like it’s the law. But if I just figured that at some point we’d go do some activities, May would come and we wouldn’t have done anything.

We are involved in a Catholic Homeschool support group (with Micaela) and it’s been an enormous help to me. We meet at the park every Friday. The kids have scheduled activities like fencing and P.E. classes, spelling and geography and catechism bees, poetry and speech recitals, a choir, and other great stuff like a vocations talk (by Micaela’s seminarian brother!), a big water fight, stations of the cross, a history class, a book club, a May Crowning, and even a Shakespeare play. We go on one field trip per month, organized by the group.

The kids also get plenty of unstructured time to run and play and explore and I have a built in support system of moms who’ve been doing this a long time. And they’re just awfully chill about it all.

I also host an activity each Monday in my home. We do Little Flowers twice a month, then two other activities. Last year it was science and art. I’m looking into what we’ll do next year. Could be robotics, or cooking, or animal husbandry, or chess. I’m still figuring it out!

We also participate in sports at our local neighborhood park.


What do your best homeschooling moments look like?  What do your not-so-good moments look like?  How do you stay on track?
DSC_8869Our best days are the days when I am engaged and present with the kids. They do a lot of independent work. They OUGHT to be able to sit at the table and just get it done. But that’s not what happens if I wander off. If I’m not present, they do a lot of window-looking-out and a lot of sibling-pestering and a lot of not accomplishing anything. And I do a lot of yelling. And people get rapped by pencils.

I need to be there. It’s especially tempting for me to take my older kids’ word for it on how their school days are going. But when I do, I pretty much always get burned. They have a way of forgetting things and misremembering assignments and misinterpreting instructions. So I need to be involved and have even my older kids check things with me. When I do that, things mostly go swimmingly.


How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?
We do school at our dining room table. The dining room opens onto both the playroom and the backyard, so it’s really easy to keep an eye on little kids who are playing elsewhere.

Since we live in Los Angeles, the kids are able to play outside year round, so that’s what they do most often. “It’s playing outside time,” is one of my most oft-repeated phrases. 

DSC_8824But, whole family learning is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling. So my little kids aren’t always banished from the schoolroom. If they can behave, they are welcome to join us at the table and color or do sticker books. The older kids get on kicks sometimes and come up with a preschool curriculum (I don’t ever do that) and do formal lessons with them during their breaks. It usually peters out, but it’s always really cute while it lasts.

We do prayers and Bible stories as a whole family first thing in the morning. The little kids also participate in our poetry recitals (two year olds are great at reciting Rabbits by Ogden Nash, and nursery rhymes), and they sit at the counter with us when we move into the kitchen for spelling and a change of scenery. They listen to our family audio books.

My little kids are part of our family and part of our school day. They can be pesky, for sure, but then they’ll pipe up with the name of a phonogram that the second grader can’t remember or the next line of a poem the sixth grader is working on, and I realize how cool it is that we can do this together.

You’ve been accused of being a robot.  Is this true?  If not, please provide proof in the following answer: What is the most difficult aspect of homeschooling for you?  And, if you must, what is the easiest?  

As to the first part of your question, I’m referring all robot-related inquiries to my blog

DSC_8814As to the rest, I struggle with a TON of stuff every day. I’m good at staying up until the wee hours coming up with new systems that are going to Fix Everything and keep us all organized. But they don’t usually work because I am terrible at upkeep stuff like paperwork and record keeping. I touched on this earlier, but it have a tendency to figure everything is going to be fine. I think it’s true and a good way to go through life, but it means I don’t check up on the older kids as much as I probably should, because I just assume they’ve done it and done it well. Sometimes that’s meant I realize in May that someone <cough, Jack, cough> skipped two entire subjects all year in the fifth grade. He got to spend the first part of his summer catching up. But, even so, it really HAS always been fine.

If you read my blog, you’ll probably know that I am very motivated by accomplishing things. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the child and just chase the check marks on the syllabus. “Look at all the stuff we DID today!” But sometimes they just need some time and attention. That’s hard for me. To sit and be there and not DO anything.

Other things come more easily. I’m comfortable with exercising authority and creating clear expectations and a good work environment. I’ve never had any trouble with kids refusing to do things. We do school every day. We start at the same time every day. If we’re going to miss school on Wednesday for a field trip, we do a day and a half on Monday and Tuesday. We get things done because we expect to. I think that makes homeschooling much easier for our family. We have little to no school-related drama.

If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?
To just worry less. Not at all if possible. It’s probably going to be fine. Really. 

CIMG3511These are my priorities:

1. I want my kids to know that I really, genuinely love them and enjoy their company. I want them to know that they are worthy of my time and attention. That’s the most important thing I do every day.
2. I want them to learn how to be responsible, independent, and curious. I want them to be self-starters and self-finishers. If I can teach them those life skills, they’ll be able to learn anything they’d like the whole rest of their lives.
3. I want my kids to be confident in their ability to learn. Some of my kids have learned to read before they started kindergarten, some not until after second grade. Both are fine. I just take care not to let them think that they don’t like reading. We stay positive and just keep at it until it happens. And it always does eventually. And once they can read, the whole world of knowledge is available to them!

Do you plan to homeschool “all the way through” high school?

I’m open to that possibility. Right now we “plan” to homeschool all the kids through eighth grade, then reassess at that point. Jack starts seventh grade in the fall, and thinks he’d like to go to a traditional high school. So we’re going to look in to them. Betty, who’ll be in sixth grade next year has a great group of friends, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they stay together and stay homeschooled through high school.

There are so many resources available for the upper grades these days, that I really don’t even find the prospect particularly intimidating.


DSC_8548A final note from Kendra:
I want to go on the record as saying, I don’t think homeschooling is the only way to do this right. I think good Catholic parents can choose public, private, or parochial schools and have success there.

BUT. If you do feel called to homeschool, and it’s not working, what you have probably isn’t a schooling problem. It’s probably a parenting problem. If you always mean what you say, homeschooling is going to go a lot more smoothly. You can do this!  If it can be done, YOU can do it.

And now, a final note from Micaela:

To any non-homeschoolers who may be still reading my blog {echoechoechoecho}, thank you for hanging in there.  I know this has been a long-running series.  I hope I made it clear from the get-go, but if not, just let me say it again: Homeschooling is not the only way to lovingly provide for your child’s education.  In some families, it may not be ideal, or even possible.  As a homeschooler, I stand firmly on the side of parents right to choose who their children are educated, whether it be homeschooling, private or parochial schooling, or public schooling.

I think what I’ve learned the most from this series is that I have at least one thing in common with each of the interviewees, but none of us are exactly the same.  It’s so refreshing to see different takes on homeschooling, because we often do get painted as being exactly the same. Thanks for reading and playing along!  And if you’re really hankering for more, make sure you check out the very first HIH post, because there are lots of fun link-up interviews to read.

This is the sixth interview in a series, “How I Homeschool.”  To read the others, click below:

How I Homeschool: In Which I Interview Myself (plus a link-up if you’d like to join in!)

How I Homeschool: Jessica @ Housewifespice

How I Homeschool:  Annery at Home Answers All my Questions

How I Homeschool: Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum

How I Homeschool: Cari of Clan Donaldson

How I Homeschool: Dwija of House Unseen

How I Homeschool: Elizabeth of Following the Trails to Heaven (High School Series)

Comments

  1. Haha, I too never wake up in the morning thinking how much I want to get five kids dressed in the car, with a packed lunch to drive 4 hours to make small talk either! We should start a club.

    Really great Kendra, and I still love all these posts Micaela – I really think it’s great!
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  2. I followed Kendra over. My first starts public kindergarten in the fall. But as some one, possibly Tish or art of simple, pointed out, we all homeschool our children.