As the tropical storm Isaiah pounded Maryland yesterday, I couldn’t help but think, it never rains… but it pours! Last week, Cale Clark at Relevant Radio asked me to chat with him about St. Martha on the Cale Clarke Show. Two days later, Paola Ciskanik at the Catholic Homeschool Conference asked if I would send in a bonus talk for the Jump Start Your Homeschool event, which is tomorrow (8/6/20).
My talk is about Finding the Courage to Homeschool, because I know so many of you are anxious about this coming school year. There are so many uncertainties, so many unknowns. Who knows how long schools will be forced into distance-learning? And I know many of you are wondering, Can I homeschool? Should I homeschool? How am I going to manage?
For those of you who missed the Jump Start Your Homeschool Event, here’s the text to Finding the Courage to Homeschool:
I know many of you are thinking about homeschooling, wondering, “Can I homeschool? How can I do it? How do they do it — those crazy moms who have been homeschooling for years? How do they juggle teaching and cooking and cleaning, child-rearing and working without losing their sanity?
I have to tell you, every summer at this time of year I still ask myself those same questions. How on earth am I going to manage in the fall? How am I going to meet everyone’s unending needs?
So for those of you who are asking, “Should I homeschool? Can I homeschool?” I know the anxiety you are feeling. But a better question to ask is, “What is God’s will?”
Or even better, turn it into a prayer: “Lord, what is your will? What is your will for my family this year? Do you want me to homeschool?”
And don’t be afraid to lay on Him all your doubts as well:
Lord, I’m thinking of homeschooling. But I don’t know if I can.
Some of you might add, I’m too impatient, too disorganized,
Others may pray, Lord, I’m not educated enough, not disciplined enough. My kids don’t listen to me.
Or maybe, it’s, I’d have to quit my job — how can we possibly afford that?
Or, I have a child with special needs. I’m not qualified to teach a child with special needs.
Four years ago, I wrote a book called Evangelizing Our Children with Joy. And there is a chapter in here that is so relevant to those of you who are afraid to homeschool because you feel inadequate. I’ll give you a quick run-down:
Sometimes, God asks us to do tasks that seem impossible, because they give us an opportunity to rely solely on his grace.
Think of Moses, a man of “uncircumcised lips”, a fugitive who had to flee Egypt for killing an Egyptian. God wanted him to tell the Pharaoh to free the Israelites and to lead them out of Egypt. Moses felt completely inadequate, yet with God’s grace he was able to do so.
Think of the princes of the Church, the apostles. Who were they? They were uneducated, inexperienced young men from a remote village in a conquered land. Even after spending three years with Jesus, they often still did not understand his teachings. They bickered over who was going to sit at Christ’s right hand.
And Peter, who was supposed to be the first pope, the Vicar of Christ, denied knowing Our Lord three times when Jesus was arrested. Peter did this even after witnessing the Transfiguration! Were these apostles “qualified” for the immense task of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth? Hardly! And yet these were the men whom Christ chose. God gave them the graces they needed, and they changed the world!
The history of the Church gives us many examples of people who were as David before Goliath. St. Joan of Arc was only a simple, illiterate peasant girl. When she first told a french commander that God wanted her to lead the French Army against the English in the Hundred Years’ War…. he told her Uncle to take her home and spank her. What a ludicrous idea! Yet with the grace of God, that is exactly what she did.
When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego, she asked him to tell the bishop to build a shrine in her honor. He was convinced the bishop would not listen him… he thought himself too insignificant, just a poor neophyte. Yet his obedience led to the conversion of Mexico.
And St. Teresa of Calcutta… she was a young nun who didn’t even know how to light the altar candles. Yet she eventually founded the Missionaries of Charity, which at the time of her death had over 4000 sisters in countries all over the world.
So, if you feel inadequate for something God is asking you to do, that is a wonderful place to begin, because feeling inadequate allows us to humbly cast our weaknesses onto the mercy of God and place our trust in His grace.
You see, the only real “qualifications” our Lord needs from us are love and humility, shown in our readiness to obey God’s will.
All the things that worry you and make you feel unqualified — God will work through them if you let him. We just need to be like clay in the potter’s hand, docile and trusting in God’s loving plan for our families.
So don’t let fear hold you back from homeschooling your children. Of course you have your concerns and limitations, we all do, but remember, with God, all things are possible.
As you go through the discernment process, I think it’s worth reflecting on God’s providence in your own lives. There were probably times in your life when He gave you strength and courage you thought you never had. There were probably times in your life when He provided for you and your family unexpectedly at a time of need.
So I think it is important to remember that when it comes to the education of our children, we parents are called to cooperate with Our Lord. And that means letting Him be in the driver’s seat, trusting that He will guide us along the right path, trusting that day by day he will give us the graces we need to do His Holy Will.
Now, I don’t know whether or not God is calling you to homeschool your family, since everyone’s situation is different. But I often think that this pandemic we’re in is a reflection of a spiritual pandemic in our society. You only need to read the headlines to see that our children are being raised in a culture that, without our prayers and sacrifices, will leave them emotionally, psychologically, and morally ill.
There is a real spiritual battle for the souls of our children. And it’s fierce. So many young people today, children and teens, are misled, confused, lonely, depressed, exploited, abused, and addicted.
The only way to win this battle and end the spiritual pandemic is through the family, through devout Christian, Catholic families raising resilient, faith-filled children.
C.S. Lewis once wrote: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
As a society, we have been deaf. Too many parents have ignored the fact that we are in a spiritual pandemic. Too many parents have spent too little time with their children, leaving them weak and vulnerable, on so many levels.
And now, I think Our Lord is saying, shouting:
“Enough. I need you to be with your children.
I need you to strengthen your marriage and your family.
I need you to live a simpler and holier life.
I need you to raise saints who will turn the hearts and souls of men back to me.”
The Church has long taught that parents are the primary educators of their children. The CCC says, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children in the faith, prayer, and all the virtues. They have the duty to provide as far as possible for the physical and spiritual needs of their children.” CCC 2252
As part of our homeschool planning, it’s good to ask, How well have I done that? How well am I teaching my children the catechism, teaching them how to pray, nurturing a love for Our Lord in the Eucharist, helping them develop self-control, justice, honesty, generosity, holy purity, charity, and all the virtues?
And is Our Lord asking me to take this call even more seriously?
So if you are being called to homeschool this year, consider that Catholic homeschooling is so much more than academics. It’s about nurturing strong family relationships and educating our children’s minds, hearts, and souls, preparing them for a life of moral freedom on earth and eternal happiness in heaven. There is nothing more important than the education and spiritual formation of our children.
Now some of you are probably thinking, “Whoa, your goals are too lofty. I just need to get through this year. I just need to survive!”
And I totally get that. But, don’t underestimate Our Lord! Don’t settle for mediocrity. God has great plans for you.
The Book of Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.
God has wonderful, beautiful plans for your children and your family. He wants you to raise saints who will transform the earth and be happy in Heaven. With His grace, you can do it. You just need to co-operate with Him.
And that probably means getting out of your comfort zone and taking a leap of faith. At times you’ll feel like St. Peter walking on the water, buffeted by wind and storm. But all you need to do is keep you eyes on Christ, always keep your eyes on Christ, calling our for his Help, and he will sustain you, especially through the sacraments.
So, Courage! Optimism! Trust in Our Lord; don’t be afraid of your limitations. Our Lord said to St. Paul, and he says it to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
However God is calling you to educate your children, look upon this year as a gift. These days you will spend with your children are a wonderful opportunity to grow in faith, strengthen your family relationships, and raise your children the way God wants you to.
There is a silver lining to this pandemic, and that silver lining could very well be the strengthening of your faith and family through Catholic homeschooling.
And to end, I would like to leave you with two quotes from St. John Paul II, who I think was one of the most courageous men of our times. He says:
“The way Jesus shows you is not easy. Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain. Do not lose heart! The steeper the road, the faster it rises towards ever wider horizons.”
“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to Him in prayer and in love. Ask Him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with Him who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’”
I pray that each of you will find this year full of grace and joy.
May God bless you and your families!
P.S. You can always access all 60+ recorded talks of the Catholic Homeschool Conference with the VIP Pass and listen to them all year long for $97. This is a treasury of homeschooling wisdom and advice, with talks on homeschooling guidance, marriage and family, and character development and speakers such as Kimberly Hahn, Laura Berquist, Tim Staples, Andrew Pudewa, and more. I wish I had access to something like this when I first started homeschooling!
(This is an affiliate link, which means I will earn a small income from it. To thank you, I’ll send you a copy of Evangelizing Our Children with Joy or The Rosary in Art for Children or my daughter’s newly released novel, Clara of Strawberry Fields — your pick!)