Homeschooling on Eagle’s Wings

lettersOne of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40v31: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. As for many other homeschooling mothers, these last few days of summer vacation are crazy busy for me as I put finishing touches to lesson plans, daily schedules, fall menu plans and monthly calendars.  My learning room is reorganized,   the bookcases are neatly stacked with books and curriculum, and school supplies are replenished on desks and tables.  Although I have been doing this for years, I feel some trepidation as Monday approaches.   I will be teaching pre-kindergarten through ninth grade this year.  Many kids, different learning styles, varied needs.  I feel a little daunted as I look at our family calendar, color coded for each child, with no blank spaces until Thanksgiving.

Each year I give myself the luxury of a few hours mini-retreat at home, to prepare mentally and spiritually for the task of educating the children for the next year. I pray and think and write, and fill my mind with inspirational thoughts.   Each year my wish is to be peaceful and joyful and intentional, rather than stressed and rushed.  I want to soar rather than flutter about.  Here are ten thoughts from my journal:

  1. Seek God’s will and ask Him for His wisdom.  Unless the Lord builds the house the workers labor in vain… (Psalm 127v1).   The Holy Spirit will guide me as to the best plan for each child. Trust in the Lord and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3 v 5-6)
  2. The principal goal of education is the same as our principal goal in life – to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him in Heaven.  We are raising saints. Our homeschool motto is “the true, the good, the beautiful.”  We have Philippians 4v8 on the wall.   The first thing I have to teach my children is virtue and goodness – without these all other learning is pointless.
  3. Put prayer and the sacraments at the center our home and homeschool.   To start each day well I have to set that alarm and wake up much earlier than the children, so that I can pray and read before anyone is awake.  Our school day is pegged upon our prayer times – Morning Prayer with daddy at breakfast, Angelus at lunchtime, Divine Mercy Chaplet at teatime, family Rosary and Night prayer before bed.   Weekly adoration, and weekday Mass at least on Fridays.  Without me you can do nothing. (John 15 v5)
  4. Andrew Kern from the Circe Institute says one of the most profoundly inspirational things I have heard – “teach from a state of rest.”  Stop running around in circles, just relax. I thought about this today as I was reading the book “Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove” to my younger children.  I was struck by the quiet peace and wisdom of the older monks who would be still and smile and say to the anxious younger monks “God will provide. He always does.”
  5. Preserve margin.  We should not be so busy and over-committed that we have no time to stop and take a meal to a sick person, open our home to someone lonely or just take time to gaze at the stars.
  6. Keep it simple. Multum non multa.  Focus on the good things. Don’t try to do everything. Remember to stay HOME and SCHOOL the children.
  7.  Teach with joy. Homeschooling is sacrificial and often hard. Remember the quote from the Exhortation Before Marriage Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy.
  8. Do not be Gradgrind and teach only Facts. Include creativity and beauty and imagination.  I have the Johann von Goethe quote on my learning room wall: A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
  9. Spend time outside in nature with the children. Nature turns our eyes towards the Creator. I lift my eyes to the hills.. Nature is healing and rejuvenating. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recognized this when he said, “… teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator!”
  10. Remember that homeschooling is about relationship. Strong family relationships will help children become confident and peaceful teens and adults. I need to not sweat the small stuff.   My oldest just left for college – she was ready and confident and faith-filled. But it seems like yesterday that I was holding that little bundle of pink. Before I know it we will be driving back alone from my current preschooler’s move-in day, and wondering where time went. I want my children to remember their home as a place of love and laughter and peace, a safe haven, and somewhere they will always want to return.

So as I sit here with my planner, and contemplate the weeks and months ahead, I try to remember that whilst academic rigor and the pursuit of excellence are necessary and good goals, these are worthless without virtue and love.  My husband and I are called to make our family something beautiful for God. We are called to educate these children so that they know and love God, and so that they can spread their wings and go out into the world to “restore all things in Christ.”

 

image: shutterstock

By

Marilyn Wilkinson is a wife and mother from Northern Virginia

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  • ykcpeggy

    Thanks! I needed that! ; – )

  • Diana Klee

    I love this piece! Thanks so much, Marilyn, so much to contemplate as we begin again!

  • devo56

    I have a problem with home schooling when Catholic parochial schools are
    available. We as Catholics are call to community. When we withdraw from community we commit a
    selfish act. How do we expect our
    community to improve if we leave it to the “other guys”? Sometimes it is just easier to leave than
    deal with the issues at hand. One of the
    marks of the devil is division, when we allow ourselves to be divided in the
    faith do we not behave like protestants?
    Perhaps our schools have degraded because orthodox people have simply
    left, leaving schools to suffer the consequence, heterodoxy. What example do we give our children who the
    Church calls to live in community when we separate them from community? Rather than stay and fight the culture, we
    teach them to flee. Christ never fled;
    he engaged the culture and challenged it to change. If we want our culture back, we must stand
    and fight for it. Believe me I understand
    our need today for orthodoxy and what I am saying is not meant to denigrate homeschoolers;
    it’s just that orthodox homeschoolers are just the people we need most in our
    schools. Believe me when I say I know that
    in our schools the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but if we do not stand and
    support orthodoxy only the squeakys get heard.
    To restore all things in Christ means someone must make a stand somewhere
    for Christ. G.K. Chesterton gave us the
    famous quote,” Art, like morality, consists of drawing the
    line somewhere.” Yet ever more famous, “I
    come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). If possible stay at our parochial schools, if
    you leave you may save a child; if you stay you may help save a community.

  • Marilyn

    Homeschoolers are not withdrawing from their communities. They are usually very involved in their parishes – youth ministry, altar serving, pro-life ministry etc – and also involved in their wider communities through voluntary work, sports and other. They are often a great witness to their parishes and neighborhoods without attending the parish schools. And homeschoolers are certainly not fleeing the culture – they are training their children to engage it – though not until the children are strong enough in their own faith to do so.

  • Elsa Rose

    I find that we all have a calling–a very individual mission. There are thousands of orders–and new ones each year (even though there are plenty out there) are founded. Christ calls us by our own name. Homeschooling mothers feel called to do so–just as you feel very strongly called to send your kids to a parochial school. Thank God for the free will God gives us.

  • devo56

    Thank you for responding and let me assure you I have nothing but respect for those that homeschool and yes my wife and I sent our kids to parish k-8 and then a diocese high school. But you made my point, you are some of the best Catholics we have. And I do understand that if only a public school is available homeschooling is usually far superior even in secular subjects. It is not that we do not want to attend public schools it is that we have literally been driven out of them. I also believe the existence of homeschooling is a motivating factor to parish schools to remain orthodox. But parish schools are a community and my fear as we have experienced, is that these schools are only being used for those that can afford the tuition and then many parishes are taxed to the hilt trying to provide scholarships to those that cannot afford tuition. The cost of trying to provide quality education is very high due to lack of religious sisters or nuns. Teacher’s salaries when divided by more students help keep tuition more affordable. But God bless you all that homeschool, I understand and St. Paul (1 Corinthians 12) reminds us all we are all part of the one Body of Christ all working together for the salvation of souls.

  • mjkb88

    Great article Marilyn. Best wishes to Abby at college.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Many, if not most, of those of us who are actively living out our faith are having more than 1.2 children and cannot afford parochial school. Even if our family could, however, we still would not – not only because parochial schools are just as permeated by our toxic culture as regular schools for various reasons – but mainly because our experience as a homeschooling family has made us closer and strengthened our bonds. It has helped us to realize how much our modern societal structure has contributed & is contributing to the separation & disintegration of the family.
    I once thought that my children could evangelize their peers by example. When my firstborn was little, I put him in religious ed classes thinking that he would be a positive influence on the other kids in his class. His teachers loved him & were thrilled that there was one child – the only one – in their classes who knew who the Pope was & knew that the holy day coming up was All Saints Day rather than Halloween. The other kids thought he was strange and stayed as far away from the goody-two-shoes as they could. He ended up feeling very isolated and it hurt. I pulled him out as there was nothing positive to be gained from it, and I knew from my own experiences that I was risking his faith.
    Fast forward a few years & I ended up having a discussion on this topic with another homeschooling mom. She shared that she had come to a similar conclusion with her own kids. They came home from RE classes complaining, ‘Mom, other families don’t pray as much as we do, why do we pray so much? They treat us like freaks.’
    I wonder how much experience you have had with peer pressure and the modern idea of “socialization”? In many respects, the younger they are, the more vulnerable. In my own life experiences growing up, far more damage was done to my faith & to the faith of those I knew by lukewarm & worldly Catholics than any proselytizing that came from those outside the faith.
    It is far easier for our children to be pulled down than for them to pull others up. Of course that does NOT mean we should not teach them to evangelize or give them opportunities, but it certainly means that we should exercise the VIRTUES of prudence and wisdom in our roles as parents. I would not dream of throwing my child into a body of water without being certain of his ability to swim – or to handle any possible dangers that he might have to face. How much more important is protecting my child’s soul than protecting his body?
    As parents, our primary responsibility is to the souls of our children. I WILL have to answer for my part in their upbringing at Judgment; I will not have to answer for the success or failure of our parish parochial schools.
    Clearly, the days of the faithful religious teaching orders, that made the parochial system once work so well for so many, have passed. The Church needs to find a new approach to helping parents raise faithful children.

  • Jennifer Dostalik

    What a lovely article, Marilyn! It is different without our oldest ones home, isn’t it? I sent my firstborn daughter off to college this year, too. Sniff, sniff. God bless you and yours this school year.

  • adiel

    I will be hiring a personal tutor to home school my child. we will be doing quite a bit of traveling and “traditional” school cannot accommodate such distractions but my challenge is where to start. I want a curriculum for my child based on catholic principals and much of what is out there is christian but not catholic, any ideas where to gather material? thank you! my child is in 5th grade.

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