Homeschool Framework

  by Kathy Wagner


Structure: Why I Use It


Structure: How I Apply It


Curriculum: The Foundation


Schedule: The Support


Grading: The Inspections


Structure: Its Benefits

This article originally titled

Structure: The Framework on Which to Build.

It is reprinted from the premiere issue of

The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Home Education Magazine

Copyright 1994. Trademark. All Rights Reserved.


Structure - What is it? According to The New Merriam-Webster
Dictionary, structure is defined as "something made up of
 interdependent parts in a definite pattern of organization."  
 I personally think all people use a structure of some sort or another.  
After all, no matter what we call it, we all have a pattern of 
organization, i.e., we we typically wake, eat breakfast, learn, 
eat lunch, learn, eat supper, go to bed, and the cycle continues. 
The amount of structure is what varies from home to home. 
Some may  choose to structure themselves by selecting a 
correspondence curriculum. Others may utilize the public 
library for educational resources but have a definite regarding 
what they will learnand a timetable for achieving specific 
goals. Some homeschoolers test their children and record 
the grades, while others test informally or not at all. 
As previously stated, it is the degree of structure that differs from
family to family.

Structure: Why I Use It

My home school is probably one of the most structured
types.  I have chosen this method because I need it! 
Without clear-cut goals, a general timetable, prepared tests, 
and a daily schedule, I fear I would be too busy or (I'm a-
shamed to admit this, but it's true) too lazy to properly 
educate my children. 
            Of course, I'm sure there are those who would argue that 
children learn while they play and there is nothing wrong 
with schooling in this manner. If that is what you want for 
your children, then, by all means, go for it. 
            But I want my children to learn more than what they want to
learn. I want them to have a broad range of educational
experiences - perhaps even some that they might not 
appreciate. (You know, the kind they object with,"Why do I 
have to learn this?") Many of the things I learned as a child 
are irrelevant to me now, but many others are quite
useful. As a young student, I was not able to discriminate 
which would be helpful to me later in life and I don't feel that
my children have that ability, either. So I make the choices 
for them.

Structure: How I Apply It


Before I describe just how structured my home
school is, I'd like to explain that structure does not mean
being inflexible or unwilling to change. In fact, I alter things 
such as schedules and supplemental resources quite 
frequently. However, I always rely on a basic framework to
build the success of my home school. I only  change 
strategies when I notice areas that can use improvement.

Curriculum: The Foundation

The most important feature of our home school is Our Lady 
of the Rosary curriculum which I use for my school-aged
children: Brian - 8th grade, Stephen - 6th grade, and 
Bobby - 2nd grade. (I also have two preschoolers, ages 3 
and 5.)
 A Catholic viewpoint is presented in almost all of the
 textbooks, save mathematics.
Since the salvation of our souls is (or should be) our highest 
priority, I felt a Catholic curriculum is essential. The trans-
mission of our holy Catholic faith to our children is inevitable 
using a systematic and incremental program in catechetics.
The curriculum we use from Our Lady of the Rosary provides
us with the basic fundamentals: books and teacher's manual,
(photocopies of fabulously Catholic texts from the 1950's 
through 1960's), workbooks, weekly lesson plans, quarter
tests and keys. Supplying all these needs leaves me with more
time to get down to the specifics of teaching.  I like that.
 Otherwise, I would spend too much time teaching or on the
opposite side of the coin, I perhaps would spend too little 
time planning, and consequently, not provide the proper 
guidelines for my children to follow.

Schedule: The Support

 I feel my children work best with a daily schedule. Our schedule 
last year was very specific. I felt it gave the children a sense 
of order and reminded them how long they should need to 
complete each class.
This schedule worked pretty well, although there were many
times all the children needed my attention at the same time. 
(I call them my "Calgon, take-me-away days.") I also found 
that on some days one subject might take less time than 
scheduled and others might take more time. Flexibility is the
key to survival. If I had insisted totally on following this 
schedule, I would have gone nuts. Instead, I used it as a 
basic guide.
            The kids and I usually work together to develop an 
appropriate schedule. For optimum learning, they have to 
be happy with the flow of the day. This year my children 
have elected to not put time limits on classes, but simply 
have arranged them in order of preference (probably 
because the schedule times weren't very precise.) 
Typically, my children choose to do math first thing in the
 morning. Once the lesson is introduced, my kids work
independently, allowing me to take care of the morning 
dishes and the dressing of my 3 year old. If they dillydally 
and do not finish their assignments in a reasonable amount
of time, I make them put it away to do as homework.
Our structure this year is noticeably less than last year. We
are not as concerned about the time spent on each class as
we are about the material covered and the respective grades.

Grading: The Inspections

  In my first two years of home schooling,  I used Seton 
Home Study (another terrific Catholic curriculum) and 
became accustomed to grading my children weekly. When
I have not recorded grades for a period of time, I know I am
not being an attentive teacher and mother. It is empirical
proof that I need to do a better job. The grades motivate me
just as much as they motivate the kids.
Since I record their scores at least weekly, it would be a 
shame to let them just sit in a file. So I do issue report cards.
            This allows them to see a great job they are doing in some
areas and the improvement they need in others.

Structure: Its Benefits

The structure I use in my home school -- that is, the 
prepackaged curriculum, lesson plans, a daily schedule,
grades, and report cards -- help make each day a little easier
for me. The curriculum and lesson plans provide the blue-
print, so to speak. They guide me.  I do make adjustments 
to them as I see fit. (As Seton Home Study advises, "Make the
program fit the child, not the child fit the program.") 
The curriculum is the firm foundation of our school. It gives
me the stability to stay on task. I believe it is vital to the 
success of home education programs.
The lesson plans provide the goals we hope to achieve. 
Without goals, how would I know when the children are 
done? Lesson plans give the overall objectives in weekly
segments. They are the building blocks of our home
school. One completed objective placed on another and
another creates a sound educational program.
The support of our home school is our schedule. Again, this
keeps everything in focus. It challenges us to accomplish 
            our objectives in a predetermined amount of time. It allows
for celebration when a goal is met before the deadline and
encourages increased effort when a deadline is fast
The inspections of our school come in the form of grades. 
            These inform us when a problem arises and testify to a job 
well done. They are a system of checks and balances. 
Grading is a great measuring tool providing it doesn't 
become too cumbersome.
Using all of these in your home school may be overwhelming
for you. Choose to use only those things that will help make
your life more simple.
Structure should not become a burden unto itself. It should 
be the framework on which to build success.

Kathy Wagner and her husband Mark are the parents of 5 children.

Kathleen founded the Erie Area Catholic Homeschoolers (EACH) in 1992.


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This article originally appeared in the premiere issue of The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Home Education Magazine. Copyright 1994. All Rights Reserved.


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