SummaryIn educating our children, Dom Baker offers us three concrete things that homeschooling parents can do to truly be the foundation of our own families.
In his ever ancient, ever new Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II makes the bold but true claim that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family” and then asserts that “marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family.”
Thus husband and wife have a significant and indispensable role to play in the future of humanity, especially those privileged to call themselves “sons and daughters of the Church,” and all the more so those called to take educating their children into their own hands.
But what does this mean practically? What are some concrete things that homeschooling parents can do to truly be the foundation of their own families?
First, pray together. This might seem obvious, but it is too often neglected. Yes, families should pray together with dad and mom leading, whether it be the Rosary, daily Mass, the Divine Office, or other devotions. But when family prayer time is over, dad and mom should pray more, both as individuals and as a couple. It can take many forms; here are two examples.
St. John Chrysostom suggests that husband and wife ought to ponder the liturgical readings individually and then come together to discuss them: “Let your prayers be common. Let each go to Church; and let the husband ask his wife at home, and she again ask her husband, the account of the things which were said and read there.”
With the advent of personal Bibles and Missals, such contemplation of the readings ought to be a way of continually refreshing the married couple and cementing their motivation and inspiration in the things above.
As St. Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” For homeschooling to be truly effective, it must be rooted in the supernatural and the pursuit of God and this entails the regular reading and consideration of Scripture.
Another example is to choose a patron saint or saints and put together a collection of prayers to him/her/them which can be recited each night by husband and wife before retiring to bed. One can never go wrong with turning to Our Lady and St. Joseph, but there are also Sts. Joachim and Anne, Basil and Emmelia (parents of Basil the Great) or Louis and Zelie Martin, just to name a few. Each spouse should add his or her patrons, and an easy but solid litany develops.
Sleep in Peace
Second, again from St. Paul, never let the sun go down on your anger. It might seem a small thing, but a few years ago I heard of a testimony from a couple married happily for forty years. The husband was asked the secret of their marriage, and he said, “We never went to bed angry with one another,” that is to say, they never allowed their own pride or hurt to get in the way of the common good of the family.
Misunderstandings, poor communication, and even hasty and hurtful words are bound to happen, given the stresses laid upon contemporary families, especially those swimming against the tide like homeschooling families. The stress of fighting against the world creeps into the home and threatens to poison the relations of husband and wife since the devil knows that if he can strike there, he can poison the whole family.
Happily the remedy is always at hand: a ready apology, kind words, the humility to accept an apology or appreciate the other’s point of view, or to simply acknowledge that weariness or stress got the better of you.
Appreciate Each Other
Finally, there is the deep appreciation of the other’s role in the family. There is an undeniable beauty to the ways in which man and woman complement one another, and that primarily in raising a family. Perhaps the father is a joker and the wife more serious, but each is needed at the right time.
So instead of despising the qualities of the other, rejoice in them! The inward looking nature of a healthy family can sometimes unfortunately foster too much focus on another’s bad qualities, or what are perceived as such. But as Lamentations says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”
The wonder at one’s spouse should be new every morning: wonder at the way your wife cares and comforts your children, bears up under her many burdens, joyfully and faithfully carries out her tasks; wonder at the way your husband generously goes out into the world to support the family, helps shoulder the mother’s burden as much as possible when he is home, lovingly dotes on the children whenever he has precious time with them.
And beyond all those things, there is also the way in which husband and wife complement one another in terms of temperament: when one is weak, the other is strong and carry both for a while; when one is sad, the other is happy and can lighten the sorrows of the other. The key is continually strive to make these differences sources of wonder and joy, quelling resentment as soon as it rears its ugly head, combatting it with prayer and the willingness to see things with open eyes and heart.
By prayerfully considering and putting into effect these simple yet profound suggestions, dad and mom can do what St. John Paul II asks: “save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”
Prayer, forgiveness, wonder—they are ever the foundation of the couple who is itself the foundation of the happy and holy homeschooling family.