SummarySometimes chaotic, often exciting, homeschooling is a blessing for the Berquist family making it possible to form their home into a vibrant domestic church.
My family is made up of nine adventurous kids (ages ranging from 17 years to eighteen months), a loving Mom and Dad, 2 guinea pigs, a cat, a dog, and a French lop-eared bunny.
To describe the Berquist family, we are all hardcore Catholics, diehard soccer players, committed singers, somewhat unshakable pianists and resolute ballroom dancers.
My Dad is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, and for the past year has been deployed to Iraq. All of us kids have been homeschooled from the beginning, and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
As the second oldest, I know that life in the Berquist family can be very exciting, and sometimes very chaotic, especially considering the fact that during school hours all nine of us kids study in the same room!
Well, chaotic or not, homeschooling has been a wonderful blessing for all of us.
Our Mobile, Domestic Church
Homeschooling has offered many possibilities for my family that might not have been otherwise. First and foremost, homeschooling has made it possible for us to make our home into a domestic church.
It has given us a chance to build a solid foundation in our Faith and morals, and has helped us put the two greatest commandments, “Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” at the center of our family life. Homeschooling has encouraged deeper relationships with siblings, and has made us stronger as a family.
A second feature homeschooling has made possible is a flexible schedule; which means more time for prayer, activities, and fieldtrips. Because we are homeschooled we are able to participate in daily Mass, pray together in the morning and evening, and recite the rosary.
Our homework can be fitted around these special times and the different activities we have each day. We love to add field trip days to our homeschooling schedule and go to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, or museums, as well as hiking, kayaking/canoeing, and biking.
The third biggest aspect homeschooling has made possible for my family is that when the Army calls us to move, our school transition is smooth. Our family has moved 7 times, and we now live in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Moving has been hard for all of us, but I know it has been so much easier than it would have been without homeschooling.
Nine of Us
There have been several challenges with regard to homeschooling that my family has overcome, but the biggest challenge is probably the fact that there are nine of us.
Each kid has a clipboard with a checklist of subjects by time, with the lessons planned out for the whole week. Each child knows what is expected of him or her, and each eventually learns time management.
Every day is different, but a typical day starts with everyone doing a couple subjects before breakfast. On most days, after breakfast we go to daily Mass. When we come home each older child is paired with a younger child to teach that child their schoolwork, while Ma also helps some of the kids.
One of the older kids makes lunch for everyone, then comes quiet time for younger children and school with Ma for older children. Dinner and daily activities (soccer, choir practice, piano, scouts…) follow.
Actually, I don’t think it has ever been that perfect, but having a somewhat solid schedule to work from helps everything flow smoother!
The Impact of Faith
The impact of faith on our family is tremendous.
The center of our faith as Catholics is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By making the Mass a first priority in our lives, we are making faith the foundation of our lives.
We try to go to Mass at least thrice a week, but would not miss going to Mass on our birthdays, patron saints’ feast days, Baptismal Days and Anniversaries of each of our Sacraments.
Adoration and Reconciliation are important to us once a month. We pray the Rosary daily while traveling, or in the evening, sometimes while folding our eight to ten loads of laundry together.
Each morning at breakfast, the life of each saint on his/her feast day is read, as well as the Mass readings if we didn’t go to Mass that day. Our morning offering and evening prayers are prayed together.
Throughout the day there are spontaneous singing outbursts of sacred hymns and other familiar church music; for example, whenever I start to sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” to myself while doing the dishes, other siblings automatically join in in rounds!
The daily education we receive from Seton is steeped in Catholic tradition and teaching and is a solid academic experience for all of our grade levels.
On Sunday mornings most of my siblings take part in the celebration of the Mass. My oldest brother, Martin, serves at the altar. I and four other siblings sing in the children’s choir.
In the afternoon, my younger sister, Mary, and I sing in the youth choir. Martin and I help lead small high school groups in discussing our faith. Once a month we have Little Flowers Girls Club and a Marian themed Homeschool Rosary Night. We also volunteer or support many other church activities.
As a family, we love to have recitals and act out skits and plays for each other. This year, my sister Mary Rose was especially inspired and wrote a Christmas Play for our homeschool group.
She and I are directing about 30 kids, and it has made Advent come alive! It is beautiful to watch the sincerity and innocence of the children acting out the Nativity story. This will definitely be a favorite homeschooling memory for all of us.
Most of our activities are faith-based; when they are not, we have opportunities to be the light of Christ to others and put our faith into practice.
All of these things are helping to form our souls so we can realize and accomplish God’s mission for each one of us someday.
This Advent, Dad finished his deployment and came home!
The first thing we did as a family was to receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass; the true and pure “Thanksgiving;” that one thing on which all of us have centered our lives.