by Kerry Costanzo
The warmer days of summer are slowly giving way to the cooler days of autumn, and the leaves will soon be changing color. It is time for a new homeschooling year, a time of new beginnings. In the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church, to which my family and I belong, September 1st is the first day of the new liturgical year. It is a good time to start fresh, to reevaluate what is working in our homeschooling, and what is not.
In the Costanzo household, Mom’s belly is bulging with our seventh little blessing, due in early December. My energy is waning, and last year’s work still needs to be wrapped up. I am slowing down, when I need to be starting up full steam again! The fresh school supplies for the start of the new school year are already being scattered around the house; markers are already missing their caps. Art lessons with the Ginger Himes DVDs result in a layer of art supplies on the family room floor. Yet, in the midst of it all, God always gives the grace to get through each day, and He reminds me of the blessing that it is to be able to be home with my children and educate them.
Homeschooling is not easy. It can be really hard. For me, it is often really, really hard. Yet, it is the right things to do in life that can sometimes be the hardest. Homeschooling can be a cross, yet as we Catholics know, it is only in picking up and carrying our crosses that we can hope to follow Our Lord to Heaven. I homeschool my children because it is the right thing to do for their spiritual welfare. Yet, especially on the really hard days, I must admit that I have fond images of me waving to my children with a smile on my face and a mug of coffee in my hands, as they cheerfully walk to a Traditional 1950s Catholic school with Sister Mary Bernadette. Yet, that is not an option for me. God is calling me to take up the challenge of schooling my children, but I am not alone. I have God’s grace. I just need to ask for it more!
A typical excerpt from my homeschooling day goes something like this:
“Bam!” A loud thud is heard.
“Mom! Dominic is out of control!” calls my eldest, Claire, the rule-follower of the bunch, the mother’s helper.
“Oh, no. What has he done this time?” I mutter to myself.
“Mommy, will you play house with me?” asks Maria, my almost four-year-old. She stares pleadingly at me, with her clear blue eyes and rumpled blond hair that always looks unkempt. It is still growing out from when she (with the assistance of one of her brothers) decided to test out their hair-cutting abilities over a year ago.
“MOM! Dominic is trying to juggle sweet potatoes again, and he knocked your picture off the wall!” calls Claire once more.
“At least this time he didn’t use eggs,” I think to myself.
I send him to his room. He and his room are well acquainted with each other.
Luke, my six-year-old, is running around the house, dressed in his toy suit of armor.
I text my husband at work: “When will you be home? I need a break. . .”
I lock myself in the bathroom. Within a minute or so, the knocking begins.
“Mom! What are you doing?”
“I’m hungry, Mom!”
“Mom, are you coming out?”
I utter a short prayer, asking God to show me the fruits of what I am doing. Maybe, if I’m really quiet, they’ll think I’m somewhere else. Some days are so hard. . .
“Mom, we know you’re in there. We need you!”
Oh, well. It was worth a shot. I emerge from the bathroom.
Anna, the bookworm, almost ten, is reading in bed.
“Anna! I told you to study your catechism.”
She stares at me with a blank look. “I couldn’t find my book.”
Anna tends to think that a cursory glance for her books that is not immediately successful somehow entitles her to a “Get out of School Free” card.
Speaking of the changing colors of autumn leaves, my face gets red with irritation.
“Keep looking, Anna. Did you check under you bed? In the classroom?”
So far, Baby Gregory has been sleeping in the crib for his nap. . . but not for long!
“MOM! Dominic is out of control! Please do something,” calls Claire from downstairs. The baby has now awakened.
Dominic is back in his room. I send another text to my husband. A sweet potato comes flying up the stairs. As I watch it soaring through the air, my eyes fall upon one of the boys’ artistic creations. It is still stuck to the high wall of my stairway. Quite a while ago, the boys tried to create wet “snowballs” (paper towels) that they threw at the wall. Let’s just say the snowballs really stuck. Creative? Yes. Amusing? Not to me! They are still stuck there to this day. Hopefully one day we will get them down. In the meantime, at least they give the house character.
I decide it’s about time to start trying to get some more homeschooling done. The noodles I started cooking for lunch a while ago are now stuck to the pan and burning. I resist the urge to send another text to my husband. I utter a short prayer that, again, I will see the fruit of what I am doing.
Suddenly, as I lean over the crib to lift the baby, he smiles at me. Ah, there it is, the answer to my prayer. A reminder from Our Lord to count my blessings, to see that there is fruit from all the stress and chaos of my day. It is those special moments when my children reward me with a smile or a hug, or those times when the kids actually put into practice what I am trying to instill in them. God is so good; He always answers our prayers. Sometimes, in these days when the kids are young, and the days are long, and the work is piling up (along with the laundry and the dirty dishes), those moments seem so rare. Yet, they aren’t really. I just have to look for them more carefully. Those moments are all around me. . . if only I will take the time to focus on them (instead of on the dirty dishes).
So, as a new school year begins, it’s a time to start fresh. A time to work on what has not been going well (lack of structure, being behind on school work, children not listening as they should), and a time to be thankful for blessings (energetic children who fill the house with happy noise, the freedom to homeschool, and a loving husband to text).
Here’s to a new school year, and to new beginnings!
Header Image CC Captured Bliss