On June 10, 2012, we gathered to celebrate our first 8th grade graduation from our homeschool. Our thirteen-year-old daughter, Bernadette, rejoiced that she had successfully completed nine years of Seton Home Study School. My husband and I rejoiced that with the grace of God, we had successfully educated her. At that celebration, my husband read and shared publicly, for the first time, the mission statement we had written nine years earlier.
So… reflecting back, how have we done in faithfully fulfilling the vision we dreamed nine years ago?
Hear, O Israel…
Well, beginning at the beginning, to love the Lord with all our strength, there is, of course always room for improvement. Over the years and together as a family, we have developed some traditions that have kept us on a relatively steady course through stormy days. We are fortunate to live very close to our parish church where there are three daily Masses! We frequent daily Mass, although it is never required because, as my middle son once pointed out, “God does not demand it.” As parents, we have not demanded what God does not demand. We have, however, encouraged our children to come and so they have. Each of our three children comes often to daily Mass, and God has blessed them for it. Then there is frequent confession, which we do as a family. This has become a habit and tradition. In the summer, it may be followed by ice cream sundaes. (Oh, I forgot, this is about spiritual growth!) In the evening, we have family prayer, usually a decade of the rosary followed by a few other additional prayers, ending with an Act of Contrition.
During Lent, we have up throughout the house Stations of the Cross where we say our prayers, and a family poster where we keep track of fasting (F), almsgiving (A), and prayers (P), (not to mention secret good deeds – stickers). If we have guests over, they are invited to add “Fs, As, Ps or stickers” to our annual poster, and it makes Lent more fun than penance!
We are not saints… far from it. In the confession line, we often ask each other for material to tell the priest, and get lots of input! However, we know that our goal in doing all that we do, is to TRY to love God and one another.
As the primary educator…
It took me years to trust that I could be the primary educator. One of the ways I knew that I could be successful with my children on an educational level was through the standardized testing offered through Seton. There was a year when my middle son hated math. It was torture for both of us. (“He must have a learning disability, and I’m making it worse!”) Then came the CAT tests at the end of the year, when he earned two perfect scores in math. Well, it turned out he just hated memorizing the multiplication table. He could do the math perfectly. I was able to figure this out with time, and as the years have progressed, while math is still not his favorite subject, he remains quite good at it. He is also the first one to tell you homeschooling is “awesome.”
To grow in grace…
There is little value in academic success if we are not in a state of grace. Homeschooling allows us to be certain that our children’s education is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Of course, because we are enrolled with Seton, all the material we receive is either explicitly in accordance with Church teaching or at least neutral. More importantly, however, our discussions at home and in the family answer many questions that come up in these times of great confusion–questions that must be answered with clarity and love and as only the Church and the domestic church can answer them.
So what do the kids look like when we are out and about? They are swimmers, a violin player, a piano player, a soccer player, a basketball player, an ice hockey player (#38), and as if that weren’t enough, a figure skater! We have belonged to cub scouts, Little Flowers and presently Challenge Club. Yet as homeschoolers, there is not only time for these activities, but dinner is (almost) always on time!
One last word…the special education department…
Our youngest son, Jude (also known as “Basketball Jude”), has Down syndrome. It took me a bit longer to decide to home school him as I wasn’t sure I would be able to do a good job with all three children. Nor did I want to lose the services provided by the public school system. However, two years ago, he began to regress in the school in which he was then enrolled. I knew it was time. I contacted Seton’s special education department and made the decision I knew was inevitable. Since that time, Jude has progressed at home and his sister and brother have had no difficulty adjusting to having him. He needs more individual attention; however I get to enjoy his progress in ways that are just unimaginable. He brings joy to our homeschool and I will be forever grateful to God that the time came for him to join us.
The Yamakaitis Family Homeschooling Mission Statement
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
We are filled with gratitude to God in our hearts for the gift of our family. And as we wish to fulfill our duties as the primary educators of our children and wish that through their education they may not only grow in intellect and skills but in grace before God and man, we choose an education that is also a lifestyle. In doing so, we hope that each day, together we can grow as a family and as individuals into people who will love God above all else.
Recognizing that the time given parents to form and train their children is very short and passes very quickly we wish to make the most of every day we have together. We wish to not only offer our children an education that meets their personal needs and challenges them to grow in comprehension and skills, we wish to have the time to meet extracurricular interests without it impeding upon our time as a family.
Our primary motivation is love of God and love of our children. We look forward to celebrating each day according to the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.