By Colleen Presprich
I absolutely love homeschooling my kids, and this year, as I know there are many families who are trying it out for the first time, I wanted to share a little bit about how we supplement our curriculum to add more religious education throughout our day. There are so many ways to do this (a quick look on Pinterest will tell you that the possibilities are nearly endless) but personally, I like to keep it simple. Thankfully, Brother Francis has some great products that make it easy for me as a mom of four.
Screen Time with a Purpose
I’d be lying if I said that my kids never watched television. And while I do *try* to keep it to a minimum, sometimes real life intrudes, and it becomes a necessity. So, when I do put my kids in front of a screen, I try to make sure that it at least serves a purpose. To that end, the games that they play on the tablet are Montessori apps, and the shows that they watch are chosen because they fit with what we are studying. My kids love nature shows and science documentaries, but I’ve also found that there’s fabulous Catholic tv for kids. For example, if its a saint’s feast day, I’ll try to choose a show from the Catholic Heroes of the Faith collection (Note, these are designed for older kids, so check them first before watching with littles to be sure they're age-appropriate!) I also love that there are full length movies available, like Joseph, for when we have family movie night.
Supplemental Sacrament Preparation
This year I get to prepare our daughter for her first reconciliation and communion. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to teach her at home, though we are using the curriculum chosen by the parish. It’s absolutely fabulous, but sometimes there are things that I want to re-enforce more fully to make sure she understands the concept. That’s when I turn to supplemental resources like the Brother Francis videos on the sacraments.
We’ve loved watching Forgiven and The Bread of Life, which are specifically about the two sacraments she is getting ready to receive, and the Sacraments episode is a perfect overview for what a sacrament is. I love that my daughter is receiving orthodox teaching, and she loves the catchy songs and stories.
Keeping Younger Siblings Engaged and Entertained
One of the questions I get asked the most by new homeschooling families (and other people who are just plain curious about what a homeschool day looks like) is what I do with the younger kids while I’m teaching.
Like many homeschooling families, our school time takes place all over the house. We have classroom shelves set up in our sunroom, and the kids can choose to do their work in there, but most of the time they carry whatever materials they need to whatever part of the house they want to work in on a given day. Our eldest gravitates to her desk but is just as likely to be found sprawled out on the couch or on the living room floor. Sometimes we all sit together at the dining room table. Sometimes we’re all on the floor.
Regardless of where we are though, my younger kids always need to feel included, and they definitely need to be engaged if they aren’t going to do something like get into the baking cabinet and spread flour all over the place (not that that’s ever happened over here or anything…). Sometimes the toddler is happy just to sit on my lap and snuggle while I’m giving an older sibling a lesson, but more often than not, she wants her own “work” to be doing. To that end, I try to keep some materials on hand that are sure to interest her, ones that she can do independently.
Her very favorite independent choice is coloring, so on the shelf in the sunroom sits a tray with lots and lots of coloring sheets and a small cup of colored pencils. There are some great coloring pages in the Brother Francis store that are perfect for this. I love that they are digital downloads instead of hard copies because it means I can print as many pages as the kids want to color, and more than one copy of each page if suddenly all my kids want to color the same one. The Brother Francis sheets are also in that sweet spot for my kids - enough detail to engage the older kids who still enjoy coloring (they don’t feel like they’re too babyish) but not too much detail to be intimidating to the littles.
I know I’m grateful for so many great resources to help me weave faith into all the parts of our homeschooling day.