This past weekend our homeschool group held its biennial Catholic Homeschool Conference. I gave a talk titled, “Getting Started: Jump Start Your Homeschool to a Slam Bang Success with Practical Tips, Helpful Resources, and Timely Advice.” A real mouthful! We cut the title for the program.
In my talk, the most important point I made is that homeschooling is not about getting into Harvard or receiving a basketball scholarship. Homeschooling is about love. But what does that mean?
Later on Saturday as I was reading at my table, a dad came up to me. He was excited and had to share something with me. This family has been homeschooling from some time and the dad did not know about the theme of my talk. Our family has known this family for quite a few years.
Their older son is now 20 and is a full time student at a local college. Like many college students, he also works. Friday was a long day for many of the conference volunteers, vendors, and speakers. When the mom got home that evening after a very long day, the son happened already to be home relaxing, watching a movie while eating his dinner, also after a very long day of classes and work.
This young man had a choice to make. He could have ignored his mother and siblings and continued to watch his movie without interruption. He didn’t. He could have paused the movie, gone in, said, “Hello,” and returned to his little haven of peace and quiet. He didn’t. He chose a different path. He turned off the TV and chose instead to go into the kitchen and visit his mom and siblings. He could have also chosen a far different path. He could have chosen to go out with his friends to a local bar. He didn’t.
Why was this father so excited that he had to share this story? His son chose the better path, freely and joyfully. This father was firmly convinced it was because of two reasons. They homeschooled. But, more importantly, the mother homeschooled in such a way that her children want to be around her, they want to express their love by being around her. They enjoy her company as much as she enjoys them. That is what homeschooling is all about.
Lest you think this is an isolated family, I was walking through the conference hall, running back and forth between two tables, when a seventeen-year-old high school boy jumped out at his mom and startled her by joyfully saying, “Mom,” and hugging her. She, of course, smiled and hugged him back and engaged him in a short conversation.
Now, not all children are quite so freely expressive. The young man in the first example never would have done that because he is far too shy. But both stories illustrate what homeschooling should be all about: love. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Love must become the fundamental principle of our lives and education.”
The ideal is possible. I have seen it. It’s not the case in every situation. I could share plenty of sad stories too. But, every once in a while the grace of our Heavenly Father shines through, illuminating our valley of tears. The key to homeschool success is love.
“Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).