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{Catholic} Homeschooling: Our Journey Beyond Academics

Education, for as long as I can remember, had been presented to me as a gradual progression of levels to be completed in a very particular amount of time. In my mind, it took the form of milestones to be achieved as quickly as possible so that one could just be done.  As I get older and my children progress in their own educations, I have come to the realization that education is a journey, not a race, and we owe it to our children to walk leisurely and take in all it has to offer.  Homeschooling affords us the luxuries of slowing down and never having to catch up, just continuing, at our own pace. We can stop along the journey and look inside the different windows of academics. If we like what we see, we actually have the time to go in and take a closer look.  What a priceless gift!

Having homeschooled for about seven years now, I have discovered that this lifestyle we have chosen is not merely about academics at home. It is about life  and character formation. The opportunity to use academics as a vehicle to teach virtues and shape their character presents itself not just daily, but almost hourly. Yes, our children need to learn math and science and social studies. They must be able to read and write proficiently. They must be exposed to wonderful and challenging and engaging works of literature and eventually be able to have an eloquent and pertinent discussion about them.  But why? Because, even if we are not of this world, we are in this world. It is our responsibility, our duty, as parents, to give them the tools they will need to thrive in this world. But it does not end there. Why do we homeschool? We do it because we can teach our children diligence and perseverance through math. It is a beautiful thing to be able to use science to generate an even greater sense of awe and wonder at God’s magnificent creation. Using history to teach them the difference between knowledge and wisdom, between sympathy and compassion, between hind sight and learning from other’s actions, is nothing short of amazing. Something as simple and tedious as handwriting or copy work is a perfect vehicle to bring glory to God because it requires patience and careful attention to detail, even temperance.  We have the opportunity to build such a solid foundation of character in our children, that their virtue will permeate everything they do as they grow up. So it is not just about the academics at home, it is about the development of the qualities each subject allows our children to put to practice and having the time to foster and nurture that development.

As my whole perspective on the education of my children has changed, so have my goals. I no longer school them to get them to graduate high school and possibly enter a good college. I school them to get them to heaven. I school them so that what my husband and I hold dear in our faith and family traditions will be passed on to them naturally, lovingly and without external opposition. For example, our children are now aware of the fact that they are not isolated from the world or the people around them; they are united to them, in action and emotion, in virtue and sin.  When they fail to complete a task diligently and in a timely manner, they see someone else has to pick up their slack. When they are disobedient and someone other than themselves gets hurt as a consequence, they understand how their sin can hurt the people around them. When they go out of their way to meet someone else’s needs, they see the joy they helped create and feel great about it.  They are learning how to run a home by completing chores that teach them to be good stewards of God’s blessings. They are learning that even in the most menial of tasks there is the immense power of conversion or salvation for a soul, if we do it with great love and for God’s great glory. As they encounter tasks they do not enjoy, they are learning the value of thanksgiving for the blessings that created the extra work. My goals with regards to their education, our goals as a family, are to help them become faithful, honorable, loyal, productive, constructive members of society. We hope to help them discover the ability to be content in every stage of their lives, no matter what the circumstances. We hope to instill in them an unending sense of gratitude for the blessings in their lives and to develop their ability to see those blessings in the best of times and in the worst of times. If we achieve this, with God’s grace, we will have succeeded in their education. Form their character and the academics will acquire new life and purpose in our children.

Are we doing our children a disservice by not pushing college on them? Well, no. As children reach their teens, they are very clearly inclined towards their passions. Teenagers are the perfect age for apprenticeships or internships in their fields of interest. What better way to have a child get an education than by interning, then working entry level in their fields of interest? What better way to appreciate a higher level education than by working your way through college? Who says college has to be completed in four years? If the child is working and studying at the same time, in their field of study, they will have a tremendous advantage once they graduate: experience.  Some children are just not meant for college. Whether they find it difficult, too easy, or completely irrelevant, some children just don’t belong in higher education. This is not to say that they just stop learning, they just don’t need to do it in an accredited institution. They do it on their own.  They pursue their interests and figure out ways to accomplish their plans without a college. By considering education a journey, instead of a race where you automatically move ahead to the next leg as you complete the previous one, children have the freedom, as they get older and more mature, to choose the path by which their journey will continue.

Whether you home school with an umbrella school, or use a boxed curriculum, or use living books exclusively,  go beyond the academics and begin to let go of the agitated pace that trying to keep up with the schedule of traditional brick and mortar schools brings to your home. Our days, planned or unplanned begin with a blank slate. We fill it up with whatever serves our family best each day. Take your time, take it all in.  Keep your eyes on the cross, trust in God’s providence, and always offer up our best efforts for His great glory.


~ Written by Cristina for Raising {& Teaching} Little Saints

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Chariot Race to Regression

Perhaps the most common and dreaded cliché about history is that those who don’t know it are condemned to repeat it. Human nature, being that it has not changed since the fall, would have us immediately place ourselves in the camp that knows history and thus will not contribute to its repetition. Automatically, most of us, or at least some of us, will assume this is a negative cliché and, full of pride and a bit of arrogance, will tell ourselves that we know better and there is no way the horrors of the past will happen again. Egypt’s Pharaoh, Rome’s Caligula, Mexico’s Aztecs, Germany’s Hitler…Not in our lifetime, no way! We convince ourselves that in this day and age, where the information superhighway contributes to the education of millions and exposes injustice on real time, there is nothing that will get past the scrutiny of the jury of the people. In our minds, at this point in time, history has ceased to be cyclical; it no longer moves in circles, like the chariot races of the Roman Empire. Now, with all our knowledge and vision, we think history has finally become a straight line, a ray pointing forward towards blissfully enlightened, progressive times. But it hasn’t, and it won’t, not ever.

Lately, the strong, progressive, liberal push for all things sexual, homosexual, feminist, atheist and/or socialist is being presented as something new or ground-breaking , has come to the attention of even those like me, a simple stay at home mom. The persistent disdain for tradition, Christianity, modesty, specificity of gender roles, is growing fast and has a ferocious and violent appetite. What in other times has been called anarchy or socialism or fascism or communism, is now disguised behind purposeful misinformation, word manipulation, and coupled with mass under-education. The propaganda lulls the crowds and convinces them of the need to move our society FORWARD in the areas of sexuality, secularism and feminism, when in reality we are witnessing a massive REGRESSION. This race to legalize same sex unions, to mark women’s success at the expense of men, to take God out of His creation is actually sending society back to some of the most violent and chaotic times in history.

We are currently facing a movement whose agenda craves destruction, humiliation and extermination at the same time it cries out for tolerance, freedom and respect. It is contradictory in every aspect of its implementation. It creates confusion, disenchantment, hopelessness and finally, minds ready for the taking. We are battling a generation raised on Nike and Coca Cola commercials, addicted to instant gratification, impatient, disrespectful and intolerant. A whole demographic that knows very little or nothing about the past, looking only at self and at present, results in a very volatile society with a fragile future. For the first time in American history, we witnessed, in 2008, the election of a president based on brand recognition and slogans. Attractive graphics and catchy phrases put in power the most unlikely candidate to the presidency in the White House: Change, Yes we can. A man without any of the necessary credentials to run our country sits at the helm and we continue, to this day, to pay dearly for it. Even today some would still argue that what happened here in November 2008 is completely different than what happened in Austria when they voted to annex themselves to Hitler’s Germany. Well, I am going to have to disagree. It is very, very similar and it proves that we have yet to find our way out of the never ending cycle of repetitive history.

Our current abortion numbers, both national and international, easily exceed any other civilization’s victim toll of sacrificial rituals or attempted genocides. The Egyptians had at least two major ethnic cleansings, as recorded in the bible. When Moses was born, all the new born males were taken from the Jewish people and killed. Then again when Jesus was born, the same thing happened. Aztecs used to sacrifice from one to several thousand at a time in the name of religious balance and peace. The Romans killed Christians for entertainment. The Nazis prided themselves in ridding the world of  Jewish people and anyone who considered them human.  The U.S. of A., with tax money, continues to sacrifice millions of unborn at home for the sake of the individual’s “peace of mind”,  and justifies it with ” bad timing”. We also promote and fund millions more abortions abroad under the guise of wanting to end poverty and advance the women’s liberation movement.

We are no different than those Godless cultures that killed mercilessly for selfish reasons. We, in fact, are so much better at it than they were. We have better resources. We have managed to raise an entire generation to think that silence is irrelevant, when in truth, it is permissive. We have managed to make morals relative, Christianity a thing of the past, and turned God into yet another one of the bad choices that will not be tolerated. Where there once was a common thread of religion in this country; now is a knotted up bunch of strands, tugging and pulling, trying to figure out, where they come from, why they are here, and what is their purpose. Left alone to sort out all the confusion, they become easy targets for the slogans and catchy phrases: Pro-Choice, My Body, Reproductive Rights. It all sounds good and respectful until we look down and see we are walking in a pool of the blood of the innocents. But how many people actually stop to look at anything but themselves? Not many, but hopefully enough.

We are also not the first nation to cry out separation of church and state. We will not be the last. But that is not really what we are doing. We are not crying separation of church and state; we are calling for a separation of Christianity from the state. For the “sake of freedom and equality”, our government steps on Christianity and knowingly makes room for the next church to attach itself to the state. Governments cannot lead societies without a moral compass. There must be a standard, a rule, a guide. Where that guide comes from is, inevitably, the predominant religious belief. The Aztecs conquered many cultures before them and imposed their own religious practices upon them. The Spanish, the English, the Moors, every conquering culture, without fail, has imposed its religious beliefs on the conquered and proceeded to rule according to them. What we are living now is no different. We are just making room for one of the less forgiving religions to fill in the hole left by Christianity’s uprooting.

It is nothing new, it is not good, but it is not new. We are only racing back around the track, one more lap. Back to the times of uncontrolled self-indulgence, or to the times when your birth determined your social status and your potential. Wherever this new lap takes us, it is certainly not a new place, just a new group of people making the same mistakes. So why is it that we insist on running around in circles? It is human nature without the grace of God. It is all the looking inward and taking care of our wants before other’s needs. It is greed, pride, gluttony, sloth, envy, anger and lust. What is left without God is nothing but chaos and death and we are riding our chariots, horses at full gallop, right around the bend. 

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They Just Don’t Get It…

They Just Don’t Get It… Marriage

I used to wonder if it has always been like this.  Has it always been so intense?  Has it always been in such danger of being lost? Is it because it’s my turn in the front lines? Am I more aware of  who wants to take it from us?  Or has the trend of wanting what one can’t have made it fair game for those who don’t understand its purpose?

It is the beauty that God infuses into all things He creates. The stability and joy that come with perfection – because God does not do things halfway – are so desirable to the human spirit because He made us to long for Him. We are created in His image and likeness, so it is unavoidable. The peace that emanates from those who understand this becomes a much coveted attribute for those who don’t. And so they seek it but, alas, refuse to succumb to it.  This insatiable longing with resistance is what brings us to the present battle over marriage, family and adoption.

God ordained marriage between one man and one woman. He commanded that we procreate, form families, numerous ones. Thus, the family is a reflection of the biggest mystery of our faith, the Holy Trinity. A family, as God detailed it must be, reflects love and joy because it reflects God and God is love. Sure there are struggles, sorrow and anger in marriage and family, but there are also endurance, trust, and peace of heart and mind. The sacrament of marriage creates a bond that far exceeds the pressures of this world. Guided by Our Lord, it overcomes all obstacles. It is enviable to the point that people who do not follow the teachings of the Church want it. They covet that stability and peace that a true marriage emanates.

However, it is a grace that does not come without hard work and commitment.  That marriage that they desire is the result of conscious decisions, sacrifices, acts of obedience, complete surrender, immeasurable faith in God, trust in your spouse, painful humility and persistent selflessness. It is the result of dying to self and living for others, of loving so much that it brings you joy to forfeit your fair share for the benefit of those you love. In return, those you love, live and die for you. And there is peace.  So to just want it is not enough. To claim rights to the name of the institution or sacrament will not bring them any of what it is they seek.  To demand inclusion in a rite of passage does not guarantee or even offer the benefits that come to those that do it the way God intended. If He designed it and defined it, He gives the rewards for the effort and discipline put into it.  Without God, marriage is just a civil union, a partnership that can be dissolved at any point by any qualified human being, a simple contract. A lifeless word.  To reject the very source of that which they covet makes it impossible for them to attain it. And this is why they just don’t get it.

From marriage comes children, family, a clear reflection of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When a marriage begins under false premises (calling a marriage something that is not), the family does not stand a chance against the temptations of this world.  It’s trapped like a fish in a barrel, waiting for the one earthly thing that one of its parties will treasure all the more.  Children, whether naturally born into a family or adopted, deserve better. Adoption,  a loving and selfless vocation, is reserved and should be reserved for legitimate marriages. In God’s design, every child should have a mother and a father, both living under one roof. That He permits families to survive with one parent is completely irrelevant. Permissive will as a result of sin does not redefine the original terms laid out for the success of a family.  God made man and woman distinctively different on purpose. There is the complementarity needed in both genders to raise children with balance.

Men are natural providers, detached. They put themselves first because it is ingrained in them that if they are not well, they cannot provide for their family. They are rough, physically stronger. They look at the big picture and try to fix anything that they consider broken. All of this is important, especially for women who embrace their femininity. We are emotional, attached, sensible, pay attention to detail. We nurture every living thing in our path. We put ourselves last in order to embrace that servant’s heart God has so lovingly placed within us. We see things completely differently than men do – and it is good that we do. It is imperative that we do. In creating us so different and yet so complementary, He created the perfect balance for humanity. Again, He does not do things halfway. And that is why, when both men and women embrace and work hard at perfecting their gender specific roles, families thrive and children grow up content, satisfied, fulfilled.  Those families create that sense of longing for normalcy within the people who just don’t get it.

The progression of courtship, marriage and child bearing and rearing is very simple, organized. God is a God of order. When done according to his specifications, it becomes one of those coveted and unattainable things for people who refuse to follow the natural order of things. The safeguards placed by God himself into the institutions of marriage and family are not present when a same sex couple tries to adopt children in order to feel complete and normal. Changing  laws to meet needs of acceptance or affirmation will not fix or change anything. Civil laws are shaped by moral laws, not the other way around. Any attempts to reverse the natural order adds turmoil, restlessness, not peace.  There are no guarantees in any union, be it a marriage or a civil agreement, that no one will sin. But, in a true marriage, a true family, the sacrament, the presence of God himself, multiplies the odds of resolution by way of forgiveness and charity. When there is nothing greater than self in a relationship, there is nothing but self keeping that relationship together . When God is right in the middle of it, we persevere and humble ourselves to do what is necessary to honor the promise we make before Him. And so, that  peace, love and joy that radiate from a traditional family is impossible to attain by those who just don’t get it.

So, I am not sure if it has always been so. Is it just my turn, our turn, to defend the lines? Has it jumped to a whole new level? What I do know is that we must operate from the understanding that what the liberal moral relativists seek is that which only God can provide. We must be clear in communicating that because of their staunch rejection of God and His creation, they just don’t get it. Maybe then we will be better equipped to have the conversations that will need to be had in the coming months and years with regards to marriage, family and adoption. More importantly, we will be able to point out the difference between what their hearts long for and what they end up getting in its place.