Program #0285 for Wednesday, April 25, 2012: New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference

April 25, 2012

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Summary of today’s show: Hundreds of thousands of Catholic families now homeschool their children. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams delve into the why and the how with Allison Gingras, Maureen Wittmann and Mark Schwedrt of the New England Homeschooling Conference that is taking place on May 19 at St. Monica parish in Methuen. They discuss the socialization myth, how Allison and Maureen decided to homeschool their children, and what attendees can expect at the conference.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Mark Schwerdt, Allison Gingras, Maureen Wittmann

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference

1st segment: Scot wished a happy birthday to our producer Rick Heil, celebrating his 24th birthday.

Scot and Fr. Matt discussed the Eucharistic Congress taking place this weekend in the North End. He encouraged interred people to register online at or to show up at Sacred Heart church in the North End of Boston on Friday night and Saturday morning.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Mark Schwerdt, who is organizing the New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference on May 19 on behalf of St. Thomas More College. He said these conferences happen all over the country and they attract people from all over the region. It will take place St. Monica’s in Methuen. There will be speakers as well as a hall full of vendors who provide resources to those who are homeschooling. Mark said this is the fourth New England conference, but it’s the first that St. Thomas More is organizing.

Previously, the event was held in western Massachusetts. Mark said they chose St. Monica’s as a central location that is very accessible. He said in the future they hope for growth and probably will end up closer to Boston.

Scot welcomed Maureen Wittmann of Homeschooling Connection. She encouraged parents to go to homeschooling conferences and meet face to face with other homeschoolers. There’s nothing like being with dozens of like-minded people to energize you, plus see so many curricula up close. Scot asked her what led her to homeschool her families.

Maureen said in eighth grade she was out of school for six months and realized she could do all her schoolwork in a couple of hours per day. Later on she met homeschoolers and was encouraged to begin. They have seen many benefits by strengthening their family life and atmosphere. Scot asked about spending all day with kids and how to avoid stress. Maureen said you get along better with your children by being with them all day. When they are at school all day there is actress when they come home to do chores and homework and all that. In homeschooling, they have a lower pace, go to Mass a few times per week together. It’s not always smooth, but being together throughout the day improves the family dynamic.

Allison Gingras said she home schools because God asked her to. She said she has a special needs child who thrives in that one-on-one environment. She added she’s happy to be at St. Monica’s parish because she’s spends a lot of time praying to her. St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine and prayed for her son when he was far from God. Allison said St. Monica offered fasts for Augustine’s conversion, showing the quiet sacrifice of a mother.

Scot asked Maureen why homeschooling stories are long stories. Maureen said it’s not something that’s the norm so you need more than one reason to do it. Homeschooling resources are more abundant today than when she started 20 years ago. She used to rely a lot on libraries and photocopies. Now new homeschoolers can be overwhelmed,

Allison said the most important resource for her is her own prayer life. She spends a lot of time asking God for the plan to raise them. Then she goes to the resources. She relies on Rainbow Resource a lot for a curriculum.

Scot wondered if there needs to be a kind of Catholic homeschooling Khan Academy. Maureen said at Homeschool Connections they’re creating some resources like Khan Academy with a Catholic worldview.

Fr. Matt asked how you measure so you know your child is keeping pace. Who sets the standards? Allison said the kids don’t have to take the MCAS. She said in her town she has to meet the superintendent of schools and show her curriculum and submit progress reports. She chooses to follow the Massachusetts Frameworks. Maureen said in Michigan they have the most liberal homeschooling laws in the country. They don’t have to report anything to the government. She does track progress and now three are in college.

She said she never used a science textbook and he scored a perfect score on his science ACT. When he was younger, they read a lot of literature, watched videos, got out into nature. In high school, they got involved in another kind of science team activity.

Scot asked Mark what led Thomas More College to become involved in the conference. Mark said the conference came to them providentially. The school’s involvement is to minister to the families in the archdiocese. Catholic homeschoolers form a large percentage of students at the college, about 30 percent. He said they often are more prepared than Catholic and public school students. He they aren’t just good students, but wonderful people as well.Scot asked what differences they do see in the homeschoolers from others. Mark said they do come prepared for a rigorous curriculum. He said it’s also a myth that they aren’t socialized. Often they are involved in home school cooperatives.

Scot asked Maureen about the socialization myth. Maureen said for her family it’s been proven to her that socialization in homeschool is equal to or superior than a site-based school. At theme, they’re used to being around adults and children of all ages. She recalls how at ease her 16-year-old son was with caring for small children. She cited studies in how home schooled children vote more, use libraries more, and are as well socialized as any others.

Allison said the biggest myth is that the children won’t have as good an education without a professional teacher. She has a master’s degree in education, but she’s seen kids in school who aren’t learning as well as home schooled kids. She notes that with her own children she’s able to spend as much time as possible for them to pass topic.

Fr. Matt asked about mentoring and support. Maureen said there are many people out there to help. She suggested going online and searching for a local homeschooling support group. If you sign up with a home study school, they have counselors. There are online forums and Facebook support groups. She said homeschoolers always seem excited to help each other.

Maureen said 83 percent of homeschoolers do it for religious or moral reasons. They want a faith-based education primarily. It took off in the Eighties when evangelicals wanted to be able to pray in schools. As a homeschooler she can pray the rosary with her kids during the day or the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3pm. Her kids who discern a religious vocation are not dissuaded from that as being uncool, for instance..

Scot asked Allison how much benefit she gets from being able to structure her day and her family time to do more unusual activities that give a well-rounded educational experience. Allison said schooling can be 24 hours per day 7 days per week, so they can have different opportunities. They’re not tied to a school day. They can on vacation when everyone else is in school.

Scot said there might be a perception that homeschool kids are jealous of going to school with all other kids. Allison said people used to give her the look that homeschooling is weird. Now she hears kids say they wish she could teach them too. All her own kids miss is school lunch, which she says is a comment on her cooking. Maureen said she hears a variety of reasons. One friend was terribly bullied in school. Sometimes it’s that her kids can be done with schooling in a few hours so they can do other projects and sports.

Allison said her school system has a program where she bring her kids to play sports, They also have town sports they can join. She just has to pay the same fee the other kids pay.

3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Laurie Costello from Brookline, MA

She wins The “Glory” Rosary Musical DVD

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Mark gave an overview of the conference. Danielle Bean of Catholic Digest and Faith and Family will be speaking as will Allison and Maureen. Fr. Ed Riley will speak on children and the sacraments. Fr. Dan Hennessey will talk about encouraging vocations.

Mark also listed a number of different providers of homeschooling curriculum and resources: Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Sophia Institute Press, Teaching Textbooks, Christendom College, Seton Home Study School, Traveling Rosaries Apostolate, Crisis Magazine, The Teaching Creche, St. Benedict Religious Shop, Nancy Larson Science, Kolbe Academy Home School, Thirty-One Gifts, Catholic Homeschoolers in Massachusetts East (CHIME), Homeschool Connections, Usborne Books & More, Navis Pictures, Kosierowski Education Group, Morning Star Christian Center – a non-profit Catholic Apostolate, A Special Mother is Born, The Rooted Mind, LLC, Modern Woodmen of America, Our Lady Queen of Saints Catholic Homeschool Support Group, Reconciled to You Ministries, Danielle Bean.

There’s also going to be a used book sale. Allison said it will be great to talk to the person who has used the book before in homeschooling and get a personal review.

Allison said her talk will be called “Swallowed by a Whale”. She said she tried to run from God when he called her to homeschool. When God calls you to this, he will provide everything you need to do this. You don’t need a college degree or be a professional educator. She will also talk about her ministry called Reconciled to You, encouraging people to live a sacramental life and thus encourage child to live it too.

Maureen’s topic will be “High School and Beyond: Yes, You Too Can Homeschool High School”. She said in her old homeschool group, about half of the parents put their kids in high school because they didn’t feel qualified or have resources. In her new city, it was rare, but they had a co-op in which they could take classes one day per week with teachers. She wants to encourage parents that they can do it.

Maureen said in high school you get into deeper work and loftier subjects, but she finds it much more thrilling and interesting. She said she couldn’t teach Latin, so she hired a tutor to teach them. She said she takes her planning each week before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.

Scot said the conference sounds like it would be good for homeschoolers, but also for those who are thinking about it and even those whose kids go to school. Mark said you will find families who care about the education of their children and want to give them the best resources available.

Mark said to register online at It’s $15 per person, $25 for a married couple, and $5 for each teen. This is the preregistration rate until May 11. Pre-registering helps them to plan the conference and be prepared. It starts at 9:30 am and ends at 3:30pm followed by 4pm vigil Mass in the parish.

Scot asked Allison about the greater challenges that come with homeschooling. Allison said it’s not always easy to get motivated. Her own children have followed her lead in becoming night owls. They have had trouble getting things done, but she reminds herself that everything can be educational and that they can school 365 days per year. Scot said it sounds like adjusting your own expectations. Allison said this is why its great to connect with other homeschoolers because they have often had the same obstacles and can help each other with strategies and plans.

Fr. Matt asked how the time use differ in homeschool. Allison said her children tackle a little of each subject per day. Maureen said her homeschool became much less structured, but it depends on the child. She said she has children with dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperberger’s. For one she would give them many more breaks from work. Other days they would get on a roll and work on English for hours. Some parents set a schedule and teach certain subjects during certain hours.

Allison said she knows people who are homeschooling as parts of groups or independently, but they all eventually connect in one way or another. She said it’s important not to feel alone in it.

Maureen said you need support. You need encouragement and prayers and to be that support for others.

Maureen said about there are about 2.4 million homeschooling families and Catholics are about 25% of Christian homeschoolers. She guesses it’s about 180,000 Catholic homeschooling families. And it’s growing. Scot said the Church’s teaching is that parents are the primary educators of their children. Maureen said the Diocese of Lansing has her on the school board as a homeschooler.

Scot said Fr. Ed Riley is the Archdiocese of Boston’s official liaison to homeschoolers.

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