This week, my six-year-old daughter Mariam and my four-year-old son Matthias had a blast helping Grandpa on his buffalo ranch.
They hammered nails on old railroad ties to make a cattle fence, carried wood, and rode in the Ranger around the prairie grasses gathering up the cows. When they were all done, Grandma paid them each a dollar for their hard work.
At first, I was worried that the kids weren’t “in school.” After all, it was a Monday morning, and their workbook pages had been left untouched. To top it off, we had gotten a little behind in our work the past couple of weeks because we spent so much time preparing for the All Saints Day Party at church.
Michael and I had helped Matthias put together an adorable costume of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, complete with a glittery gold chasuble which I sewed, a beard made from cotton balls, and white cloths soaked in red marker to signify stigmata wounds. Sigh.
Last but not least, the kids have not done quite as much reading lately because they have been busy helping Michael dig up our garden carrots and build a garage. It took a whole morning to pour 27 cubic yards (about 50 tons) of cement, for Pete’s sake, and they had to watch every bit of the action!
Complementing their Homeschooling
Now, looking back, I’m so grateful for the amazing educational experiences that these seemingly distracting and time-consuming activities have had to offer. I’m not saying their textbooks, workbooks, and tests aren’t critically important. They are, and very much so. In fact, they are the basis of homeschool learning.
But I am saying that by homeschooling our children, we are continually complementing their education with life experiences that drive home the lessons they discover in their books. Building the garage, for example, has been a perfect combination of physics, geometry, engineering, electrical science and carpentry all wrapped into one fantastic outdoor learning session.
When I first encountered the “real-deal” of Catholicism at a dinky mission clinic in a poor desert prison town in California when I was 19, I also encountered the idea of homeschooling.
The doctor of the mission clinic had a copy of Dr. Mary Kay Clark’s book on homeschooling, and he shared it with me, telling me that many great Catholic families were deciding to be counter-cultural and homeschool their children.
As he explained that to me, a still small voice inside not only told me that God was calling me to become Catholic, but deep inside I felt I was being called to homeschool my children some day as well. Seventeen years later, I am profoundly grateful that I listened to this voice.
The Church that rescued me from the anguish of confusion, sin and desperation means everything to me, and so does the opportunity to share Her beauty with my children on a daily basis. As St. Thérèse once said, “In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love.”
I once spent a few weeks in a Carmel, only to discern it was not God’s will for me. But now, as a mother of three little ones on earth (and three in Heaven), I am living out the longing to be the love of God as I homeschool my children.
The First Teachers of the Faith
Thanks to homeschooling, my husband and I are naturally the first teachers of the Faith to our children. We not only encourage them to walk alongside their Lord and Savior, but we are able to be on the journey right along with them, Monday through Sunday.
As the people who know our children better than anyone in the world, we also enjoy helping them develop their academic talents all throughout the year. Furthermore, we are proud to be the first ones to teach them useful life skills, such as: how to run a family home business, remodel your own house, do taxidermy, make cards for those who are suffering, can salsa, and write a marvelous short story.
As I make my list of things I am thankful for this year, I realize that many of the things I am so glad we have are things that we would never have if we weren’t homeschooling.
Homeschooling brings innumerable blessings and benefits—ones that we see now, and ones that we will only be able to see in years to come. The seeds of sacrifice we sweat over will one day bloom, and there will be no regrets or shaking of heads. Our children will stand strong on the foundation of purity, excellence and truth that their homeschool education has endowed them with.
There’s nothing like being able to cuddle with my daughter and read First Farm in the Valley for hours on end, or answering her bubbling questions after going over a science lesson. There’s nothing like watching my children waddle out of bed in the morning and knowing I won’t have to send them off to somewhere scary for the day.
There’s nothing like letting my older kids take turns holding their newborn baby sister all throughout the day, and seeing them play and study together as the best of friends. And there’s nothing like opening up a whole new world to your children by teaching them to read, on your lap, at their own pace, one adventurous word at a time.
For the gem of homeschooling, and its radiant rays of promise, Father, we thank Thee. For the etching of memories and the treasure-chest of friendships we are creating during each school day, Father, we thank Thee.
Let us live the divine call to holiness and be the most devoted parents and teachers we can be!
Our Lady of the Rosary, be our companion, be our hope!
What kinds of activities are your kids in that you can happily classify as ‘homeschooling’? Share your response with me in the comments!