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How Catholic Hippies Homeschool

Note: I use the word “hippy” loosely; that is, while I am distrustful of government, buck current sexual norms (by embracing traditional gender roles!), and like to eat close to the earth, I am not presently nor have I ever engaged in promiscuity or illegal drugs. OK, then; let’s have a little fun with this!

1. We spend a lot of time outside: yard gaming in the grass, fighting, exploring, and magical games in the woods; coaxing vegetables out of the garden; and caring for the hobby farm animals. We turn this into language arts, science, social studies, and art by writing, researching, photographing, sketching, and labeling. We actually do make daisy chains, cook up dandelion flowers, and brew spruce tea. We are flower children.

animals 0032. When the weather pushes us inside (excepting farm chores), we build stuff like classic forts, train tracks, lego creatures, and obstacle courses. And books, books, books. The most encouraging thing I have ever heard in fifteen years of homeschooling is this: A curious mother and a library card can give a child an excellent education. I make sure to have great books here, from board books to picture books to novels to textbooks (most titles found in the appendices of programs far too tightly ordered for me!) so that whatever strikes their interest will be excellently fed. It’s a beautiful bag.

3. We rap about culture, politics, and religion regularly. We explain, draw charts, and break out the catechism and Bible to read. Our Holy Faith is reasonable and touches every aspect of life while bathing our hearts and minds in the tempering love of Christ. So we can discuss a certain law or program or news story or homily with all the volume and hand-waving my Irish roots revel in; and in the same conversation bring it back to How Should We Then Live? (usually thanks to my quieter husband). Right-on activism.

4. We love the earth (see #1). We are masters at recycling and reusing out of financial and space-necessity. Any plastic container gets washed and joins the ranks of Ken’s camping supplies; any cardboard becomes a fort or art project (see #2); our backyard animals provide milk and meat and their pens provide fertilizer for the field and garden. Stroller walks always amass trash that the children collect and discard and our cars and clothing are someone else’s cast-offs. Love, baby.

100_22185. Even our mathematics is laissez-faire. We keep half a dozen programs here that they float among (Singapore, Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred, Oak Meadow, Dragon Box, and Khan online) and enough buckets of manipulatives to ruin a week’s worth of midnight bathroom visits. If someone is having a particularly tough time, they’re dispatched to help a toddler build with Cuisenaire rods or design with pattern blocks. Peace, man.

 

The delightful Elizabeth Foss wrote that “We are educated by our intimacies” and this is our way of helping our children (and who am I kidding, us parents, as well!) be intimate with God’s creation ~ the earth, the family, the Faith ~ in our own Catholic hippy groove.

“Far more important, my dear Catholics, is not what we are going to do but who we are to become: that we become men and women of God and saints of God, the presence of Christ in this world. That is the object of education: who we become.” Bishop Carl Mengeling in The Catholic Homeschool Companion.

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By Allison H.

Allison is a 40-something mother of seven, living in Alaska, accepted into the Church (together with her husband, thank God) in 2004. She spends her days homeschooling and packaging meat that her menfolk hunt and bring home. She cannot garden to save her life but picks wild blueberries like a champ. She has been published in an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul and keeps a blog at www.northerncffamily.blogspot.com, writing about living out the Faith with children with cystic fibrosis.

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