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Cristina Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Raising Saints

{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