Several weeks ago, I was asked to write a column for this magazine with the “Back to School” theme.
I considered this somewhat ironic since the defining feature of homeschooling is that we are not going “back to school.” The fact is, we’re staying home—with good reasons.
And if you need a little motivation to begin another academic year, here are my five W’s of homeschooling.
1. Who? The family.
For many homeschool families, the mother is the main teacher, with the father taking a less time-intensive role. But it is a common misperception that the parents are the only ones who teach their homeschooled children. In truth, other family members can play a large part as well.
During much of my homeschooling years, I spent lots of time with my grandparents. For my twelfth birthday, my grandmother gave me a handwritten poem. Thirty-two years later, I still keep it in my desk. It concludes:
“And now that manhood is so near,
It all becomes so very clear,
That days ahead you will find
Even greater things to fill your mind.
And though the joys of earth be many
(And most of them don’t need a penny),
You’ll see your soul is truly thrilled
When with those things divine its filled.
So, bless you Johnny dear, and know
That Grandmere and Grandpere love you so.”
My grandmother is much of the reason that I’m “thrilled with things divine.” You see, during my homeschool years, I witnessed her being thrilled at divine things first. She illustrated to me that the love of God and happiness were ultimately inseparable. The last thirty years have served to prove that to me.
The days spent with mothers and fathers, with grandmothers and grandfathers, with uncles and aunts, with brothers and sisters, are irreplaceable opportunities to grow in virtue and love.
2. What? The Faith.
Seventeen centuries ago, St. John Chrysostom wrote: “In our own day every man takes the greatest pains to train his boy in the arts and in literature and speech. But to exercise this child’s soul in virtue, to that no man any longer pays heed.” Little has changed since Chrysostom’s time—except for the fact that, as a society, we no longer train children in the arts, in literature, or in speech.
I’ve never been comfortable comparing homeschooling with other forms of schooling.
I think the benefits of homeschooling can stand on their own merits. But it’s irresponsible to ignore the point: many schools are commonly pushing an agenda that bears no countenance of Christianity. In many academic institutions, virtue is a secondary pursuit, if a pursuit at all. As John Chrysostom may have put it, many schoolchildren are taking atheism and socialism for credit; they are only auditing virtue.
By contrast, your children have a curriculum of faith—the world’s greatest lesson plan. Your living room is the classroom of virtue.
As an answer to the world’s pollution of vice, the homeschooling world creates an environment of faith and an ecosystem of Christianity.
It is true: there are no guarantees. Things like grace and virtue are not hereditary. But at least our children are learning what virtue is.
3. When? Now and forever.
The things we’re teaching now do not benefit our children only in the present moment. The most important lessons today are the ones that benefit our children forever.
4. Where? Home.
Your homeschooling house may look like very ordinary—ordinary doors, ordinary windows, and ordinary walls.
Don’t be fooled. Your home is a castle where Catholic knights in shining armor and Catholic princesses are raised. Your home is a magnificent cathedral of the domestic church, and for that reason, it rivals in beauty anything and everything that was built during the magnificent summit of Christendom’s glory.
Your home is a basilica where the classrooms are adorned with the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. What better place to learn?
5. Why? Because God loves you.
Of all the lessons that children can learn, this one is the most important. Who can teach this lesson to children better than parents?
Parents, as you begin to open the books and get out the pens and pencils for a new year, ask God to give you grace to remember the reasons you are homeschooling. Make a list of your reasons, and revisit them often.
Welcome back home!