SummaryNever forget to seek out enjoyment in your homeschooling day. Schedule to your advantage, pursue your passions, make gratitude a close friend, and have fun.
Long ago, in a book whose title I have forgotten—was it M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled? —the author recounted the story of an English girl and her mother who, having set out on a trip, missed one of their connections in the railway station.
As they sat on one of the benches near the tracks, their bags at their feet, the little girl turned to her mother and with tears in her eyes said, “Mummy, are we in trouble? Is our holiday spoiled?”
“No, my dear,” her mother replied. “We have just embarked on an adventure.”
Adventure. It’s a point of view, a state of mind, even of the soul. Say the word aloud, and you can almost taste the excitement in those three syllables.
The Adventures of Homeschooling
Too often we homeschoolers—I say we because I was a homeschooling parent and am now a homeschooling grandparent—forget we are on an adventure.
We become bogged down by schoolwork, caught up in the intricacies of calculus, the writing of essays, and the taking of innumerable tests. We feel the constant pressure to complete our daily syllabus, the weight of finishing school by a certain date, and even the dreaded sensation of falling behind.
This stress and fear are natural. They are as much a part of life as sleeping or eating. When we get too tangled up in this net of schedules and schoolwork, however, it’s time to pull back, catch our breath, and remember that we are meant to find joy as well as travail in our home education. Like the mother in the train station, we must remind ourselves that we too, from the moment of our birth, are on an adventure.
For the past year, I have helped edit both this magazine and the Bayley Bulletin. I have read the accounts of scores of young people, all of them Seton students or graduates, who have used their time away from textbooks to enjoy their own personal adventures.
A hot air balloonist who received her pilot’s certificate at age 16; a young man who spent some of his summers walking across the United States with a pro-life group, evangelizing and praying outside of abortion clinics; a girl whose devotion to the violin led her to win honors and a medal at a national competition.
These and so many others—archers and dancers, musicians and athletes, volunteers of all sorts, writers, film makers—have made their mark on the world outside of academics.
Others have written essays on a different sort of joy—the joy of family—made possible by homeschooling. One young man recounted the value of the time spent with his ailing grandfather, a man of faith whose life of prayer and practice of virtue daily inspired his grandson, even after his grandfather’s death.
Another young essayist credited homeschooling with deepening her love for her younger brother, born with Down syndrome. Still others have attributed to homeschooling the opportunity to become better acquainted with their siblings and friends.
All of these young people acknowledge three gifts of homeschooling that have allowed them to hone their talents, enhance relationships, and find joy in their activities.
The Gift of Flexibility
The first of these gifts is flexibility.
Because they don’t spend up to eight hours a day in a school building, the homeschoolers to whom I have spoken these past two years or whose essays I have read nearly always mention flexible schedules as being one of the prized components of a home education.
They go to swim practice at five in the morning; they take piano lessons, often at a reduced rate, in the early afternoon; they work in a bakery four hours a day and complete their studies when they return home. Because of homeschooling, they can attend daily Mass, work in soup kitchens, visit nursing homes, and learn a trade.
In all these activities they find satisfaction and pleasure.
And that satisfaction and pleasure, the offspring of flexibility, brings us to the second of three gifts for homeschoolers: passion.
The Gift of Passion
Rather than adapt to the schedule of a formal classroom, homeschooling students and their parents have a wonderful freedom to make the most of every day, a freedom in which students may indulge their diverse passions.
One of this year’s Seton graduates, for example, lives on a large property with her family, where they raise chickens, sheep, horses, cats, and half-a-dozen other animals. Working on her family’s farm has this young woman passionate about animal husbandry and interested in a career in veterinary medicine. Another Seton student appeared on EWTN to discuss a film he’d made about the priesthood.
Over my many years of offering seminars to homeschoolers, I became acquainted with a ninth-grade girl who sold her homemade jewelry online, another who won prizes making gingerbread houses, a young man who fought his way into the Golden Gloves, and a hundred others who happily threw themselves into activities ranging from website design to house-building, from Tae Kwon Do to the Civil Air Patrol.
When we discover our passions, and when we have the time to follow those passions, we find joy. We take delight in those activities and interests that enliven our minds and rouse our hearts. And no—we don’t need to be a champion swimmer or a prima ballerina to love aquatics or ballet: success in our pursuit of passions takes second place to enjoyment. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote,
“When something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
There is great wisdom in that adage.
The Gift of Gratitude
The third and final ingredient in finding joy in our schooling is gratitude.
Many of us forget to endorse an attitude of gratitude. We get whirled up in troubles both petty and immense, and fail to remember that we are living every second of every day in the middle of an immense miracle: inhabiting a globe spinning through space and teeming with all sort of creatures and plants; an earth filled with tall mountains, immense oceans, and enormous cities, all adorned at night with millions of stars.
We forget to be thankful for the many blessings and graces brought to us by family members and friends, often by their mere presence. We even forget to offer our gratitude to God, whose gift of life made us a part of this wondrous carnival.
The students I have interviewed or whose essays I’ve read, almost unanimously expressed their gratitude to their parents, to their teachers and mentors, and to God for all the extracurricular opportunities available to them.
As we all know, sometimes school can become a slog. Sometimes life itself can be a slog. But God did not put us here on earth to be perpetual sloggers. He put us here to run a race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Saint Paul writes,
“Do you not realize that, though all the runners in the stadium take part in the race, only one of them gets the prize? Run like that — to win.”
One way we win that race, where our only real competitor is the face we see in the mirror, is by finding joy in our day. Many of the saints recognize the importance of joy.
Saint Augustine wrote “Dilige et quod vis fac,” meaning “Love and then do what you wish.” Saint Teresa of Avila seconded this attitude with her well-known wish: “May God protect me from gloomy saints.” Our Creator wants us to find enjoyment in the many pleasures of his creation, to take joy in what we love.
So get your schoolwork done. Get your chores done. But never forget to seek out enjoyment in your homeschooling day. Work that study schedule to your advantage, pursue your passions, make gratitude a close friend, and have some fun.
And remember: Today is going to be an adventure.