Meet my friend Karen and her beautiful Catholic Homeschool family! Karen is also a mompreneur, blogger and homeschool mom of 5.

Tell us about your family.

My name is Karen, and my husband and I married 18 1/2 years ago.  We are blessed to have 5  fabulous children ages 17, 15, 11, 7, and 3.  All but our 15-year-old daughter decided to homeschool when we began 3 years ago.  We have found a fabulous Catholic homeschool community here in Houston and are grateful for it!

Catholic Homeschool

How long have you been homeschooling?

We began homeschooling in 2014 when we decided that we wanted more time as a family and a Catholic homeschool focus.  We are moving into our third year of homeschooling.  Homeschooling has afforded us so much more time with our family and the ability to teach for our children’s individual learning styles.  At the beginning of our homeschool journey, I was very overwhelmed and felt extremely inadequate.  Gradually through trial and error,  and time, I have become more relaxed and I realized that I don’t have to recreate school at home.

Tell us about your homeschool approach.

At first my husband was very nervous and wanted me to keep the kids on track with their peers in public school just in case we decided to send them back to school.  We enrolled all of the kids into an accredited Catholic homeschool program because they provided transcripts, graders, and teachers to help with any subject that the kids might have difficulty with.  There are many good things about the program however as time passed, and my confidence as a homeschool teacher grew, I realized we needed to do things differently.   This homeschool approach of recreating school at home with a traditional workbook-based program just didn’t fit our style. I wanted my kids to become life long learners with a more child led focus.

We do more unit studies now, and I am moving towards a more Charlotte Mason approach to our Catholic homeschooling.  Through periscope I have met an amazing community of homeschool moms that have inspired me to try new things!   We are a very relaxed eclectic catholic homeschool family.  We encourage the kids to red about things that interest them or that come up in conversation.

For my high schooler, we use Saxon Math and she attends classes at our local community college for science, band, and foreign language under their dual credit program.  With the rest of our kids, I use some workbooks for English, phonics, vocabulary and spelling but we do a lot more independent reading and writing about things they are curious about at the time.  We read our history together and then as certain questions come up we make a list of things we want to look up or learn more about.  We love to make notebook pages to help us remember all of the cool things we learn throughout the year.

Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?

Houston is very hot and humid in the summer and we cannot spend as much time outdoors as we would like to, therefor we take a lot of time off in October when the weather is gorgeous!  The kids love that fall here as much as I do and they enjoy playing outside.  Because of this, I decided we would continue to homeschool throughout the year.  My oldest has found it to be much more relaxed than trying to cram all of her studies into 9 months.  I think when you take things at a slower pace you retain more of what you read and learn.

Tell us about your homeschooling routine.

  • Our homeschool day ideally starts out about 8:30  (though most things don’t always go as we plan) after I have dropped off my high schooler, everyone has eaten breakfast, prayed, and gotten dressed.
  • I  send the younger ones out to play for 30-45 minutes to burn off some energy and wake themselves up.
  • During this time I meet and  go over what my high schooler needs to get done. We then discuss the calendar and our plans for the week.
  • The younger ones come in and I tell them what we have to get done and what I would like to do with them for fun (having a fun incentive at the end of our school day helps to motivate them and it doesn’t have to be anything big just sort of a high point to look forward to).
  • My son usually begins his Spelling, English, and Math lessons and I have him work on what he can independently.  
  • While he does this I spend time working with my 7-year-old on sight words and reading.  We sometimes have time to get a math game in.  Most of her math this past year has been taught through games and fact family cards which she enjoys.
  • Around 10:30 we all take a fruit break have a snack and gather around for our history lesson which I like to read aloud for everyone to hear and participate in.  After the reading, I give my son some questions to answer and my younger ones get to draw a picture about what they heard and then retell the story to us.  This lasts for at least an hour as the kids usually get into our history lessons.
  • we break for lunch and family prayer around noon and at this time my 7-year-old is usually finished with her work.
  • Some days we head to the library or the park where we bring books to read while other days we take a walk and discuss the weather, or something we observe in nature.  With all of the rain and flooding in Houston this past month we discussed erosion quite a bit which they have observed first hand as well as weather patterns.
  • I try to get a craft or some type of project in  after lunch but this past year was very challenging for us having a toddler in the house.  I wouldn’t say it was our best year but we are a work in progress.  I don’t believe there is a perfect homeschool, we all just do the best we can and as our needs and seasons change we adapt.
  • by 3pm we are finished for the day and if my oldest needs help with anything I can help her while the younger ones play outside or watch a movie.

Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at…

We believe our children learn all over the place however we do spend most of our time homeschooling at home. Depending on the day you can find my son reading in his hammock that he has hung on his bottom bunk bed, or working at the kitchen table.  My daughter has her own desk in the corner of our living room and she likes to sit there to read or practice her handwriting.  We almost always end up sitting on my bed and reading our science, history, or reading lessons together.  My girls are very involved with music performance and are avid concert goers.  They have learned so much first hand by listening and talking with fellow musicians.

Catholic Homeschool

What have you picked for your curriculum next year?

My twelfth grader is taking college classes for Spanish, math, band, and science at our Spanish college this year and completing her Seton Homeschool graduation requirements.
As for my son I am changing things up and we are using Seton Home study school for his English, spelling, phonics, vocabulary, and history, however we will not be fully enrolling him in their program.  I want to have the freedom to read what we want to and participate in the boys book club hosted by our local homeschool group.  He will be using CTC Math this coming year, and we are still picking out the rest of our curriculum.
As for my second grader, we are using Galaxy Grammar, CTC Math, Seton Home Study for English, vocabulary, and history, and all about reading and all about spelling.  I am hoping to work Brave Writer into our homeschool lessons as well.
My preschooler is working on her letters, colors, and numbers through lots of hands-on activities like painting, coloring, play-doh time, crafts, and songs.  I try to keep things fun for the little ones as I believe learning should be.  We won’t be using any curriculum other then what I throw together for her.
I am always watching for programs I find interesting and I plan on looking at Brave Writer for this coming year as well as build your library.  I am always open to switching things around and most likely I will!

List 3 books about homeschooling that really impacted you.

I have not really read a lot of books on homeschooling as much as I have talked with others and attended homeschool conferences.
  1. Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons gave me the confidence to trust that I could teach my little one to read.
  2. Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum A Guide to Catholic Home Education by Laura M. Berquist
  3. Catholic Education: Homeward Bound A useful Guide To Catholic Homeschooling by Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson

Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?

  1. a map because there is so much we can learn from reading a map and it will most definitely come in handy in getting us from point A to point B.
  2.  Our Bible would be on board because God’s word is very inspiring and helps us to keep the faith.
  3. Our Journals so that the kids can jot down and write about their adventures,
  4. our history book because hopefully, we can make a few stops along the way at some historical places we have studied.
  5. I would say a laptop because the possibilities are endless on the web!

If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?

If I was starting all over again I think I would have more confidence to structure our homeschool in a way that lent itself to our own learning styles. I definitely wouldn’t fully enroll in the curriculum we began with because I never felt successful with Seton.  I know they say you can pick and choose and customize the curriculum but I am an all or nothing kind of person and it stressed me out to see things incomplete.  I would trust myself and my track record of being able to teach my own children and I would cater things more to my individual children and not worry about keeping up with the public school system so much.