With the days of summer coming to an end, I am sure some of you (myself included) are bracing yourselves for another year of homeschooling. Every August I find myself wondering how I will ever teach multiple subjects to multiple kids, juggle the piles of grading and laundry, get my kids to their many activities, cook decent meals, pay the bills, etc., etc., all with a very active, curious toddler in tow. No wonder the end of summer is always accompanied with apprehension!
How timely, then, is this post by Amy Arrowsmith, a recent Catholic convert and new-comer to the world of homeschooling. You know what I love about converts and newbies? Their idealism and fervour, their newly-opened eyes to God’s incredible love, and their high hopes. If you’ve been homeschooling for a year or two or five or more, your spiritual vision might be dulled and your enthusiasm jaded by the daily grind of educating your kids. Still nursing the scars of last-year’s battle wounds, you might have a lot of misgivings about another year of homeschooling. I encourage you to read Amy’s post, which I hope you will find refreshing and inspiring. Educating our children at home is truly a noble calling and an amazing privilege. May you begin this year with hope and anticipation for all the good that God will do with us and through us!
My first homeschool year is approaching quickly. I’m not quite sure how it will progress once we begin, but I am pulling together all the pieces of curriculum, schedule, and materials for our learning space in the hopes that we will begin fresh and organized. I feel a mix of emotions about this decision and year; while the homeschool movement is growing, it remains counter-cultural in today’s modern world. I frequently need to remind myself of why I am embarking on this journey with my children as I encounter surprise in other people’s expressions when we share we will try homeschooling this year.
Though I never saw a message written in the sky, I believe that homeschooling — at least giving it a try for a year — is a calling for our family. It’s a dream of my heart, one of which I believe God would approve. The dream isn’t romantic — I’ve read and heard too many day-in-the-life stories of homeschooling’s ups and downs — but I believe it is worthy and noble. I see homeschooling as a way for our family to share and nurture some of the most important things in life: virtue, love, faith, and hope. Fostering the development of these virtues, especially the theological virtues, in human beings is the point of life and, in my view, the purpose of education. To raise or guide another human to love, have faith, and hope is the highest calling in our lives as Christians. It follows that as their parents, we are best equipped to do so. Of course, this can be accomplished in any schooling environment. And it is an uphill battle in every schooling environment. But for our family, thinking about our goals, circumstances, and unique personalities, homeschooling seems the best fit to achieve those aims.
The environment plays a huge role in achieving this objective. We absorb the world around us, whether that is through the books we choose to read, the friendships we choose to nourish, the authority we choose to submit ourselves to, or even the physical environment we choose in which to place ourselves. Some children absorb those influences more easily — the good and the bad — and attach a greater importance to what is learned in traditional school rather than what is learned at home from parents. In homeschooling, a parent has more influence over those elements which contribute to the development of their children’s hearts and minds than they would if their children were in a traditional school.
It seems easier to pave a path toward virtue in our daily lives with homeschooling. My kids were exhausted at the end of each day in traditional school, making it much more difficult for them to be kind to one another in the limited time we had together each afternoon and evening. One of my kids was too tired to be very interested in extracurricular activities; she missed us and preferred to spend her afternoons with mom. The time for reading–either independently or aloud as a family was limited when my daughter was in traditional school. I want my kids to love reading, and I want to give them ample time and energy for discovering great books that educate and inspire their hearts. And, of course, I hope to give them time to play, to be outdoors exploring, getting dirty, making up games with each other and friends. In changing the balance of our time spent together over the course of our days, I hope to give them their childhoods back, to give them that free time to wonder and imagine, and to dive into the business of childhood — play!
As a new Catholic, I am enthusiastically diving into books about the Saints. I recently began reading The Interior Castle or The Mansions, by St. Teresa of Avila. In the first chapter she reminds us,
If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness…Rarely do we reflect upon what gifts our souls may possess, Who dwells within them, or how extremely precious they are.”
I know God will do the work of sanctifying their souls, but I also know He has entrusted my husband and me with their childhoods. I hope to create a loving environment for learning, in which their hearts may be kept tender and their souls sacred, where they might discover their God-given talents and His call for their lives. I hope to bring them to daily Mass regularly, to put them in front of the Lord so they know one place they can find Him as they become adults. I hope I can show them how much God loves them, and teach them to love Him above all other things. I hope to show them the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the world He created, the world He created them for. These are high aspirations and I’m sure we will fall short, but through prayer and God’s grace, I believe God will shepherd us through it all.
Peace be with you all as you begin your beautiful school year, homeschooling or traditional.
Amy Arrowsmith: I am blessed and privileged to be living my dreams. Devoted wife and devoted mother to three beautiful children. Formerly a marketing professional in CPG, currently embarking on a second career as a homeschooling mom. Enthusiastic recent convert to the Catholic faith. Love children’s books, and wish I had studied Literature in college. Terrible decorator and mediocre cook. Love drawing, painting, hand-lettering, nature walks, and pondering the beauty of the world.