“Why do we homeschool?” Often when we begin homeschooling there is something that prompted us to begin. It may have been a child struggling with school, a negative socializing experience, or any number of issues. Once the mom begins, she may feel conflicted that her children will miss out on some great academic experience. She may moan, “I wish I had a real science lab” or “I could never have an interesting literature discussion like I did in my British Literature class.” So why are we doing “that”? Why are we homeschooling? Because we want to educate the whole child; we want to educate the child for eternity.
On occasion my twin nephews, who are six years old, will burst into song, “Father, I adore you. And I lay my life before you. How I love you.” In a public school setting, I guarantee the teacher would not appreciate or encourage such a song. But in the home, this is a beautiful testament of my nephews’ childlike faith.
Too often we focus on the academics and overlook the whole child, the need to build the character of the child and consider all aspects of the person. In his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, Blessed John Paul II described Christ as one who “labored with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart” (par. #4). We need to ask ourselves when we educate ourselves and our children, “Do we labor with Christ’s hands, think with Christ’s mind, act with Christ’s will, and love with Christ’s heart?” We sometimes become so consumed with educating our children’s mind, we overlook shaping their wills, teaching self-control of their drives and passions, training their hands, and nourishing their hearts and souls.
Because the child is a whole, integrated person, we cannot always compartmentalize when we will be educating their minds, their hearts, or their hands. While showing my daughters how to crochet, we might have a discussion on a topic that would form their character or is related to their academics. In practicing her violin or playing the piano, my daughter develops any number of virtues, such as perseverance, attention to detail, and listening to the soul. When I ask a young child, “Please bring me a diaper or wash cloth” or another simple task, I am testing his will and encouraging his obedience. In the home, education is life.
What are we educating? The whole child.
How do we educate the whole child? Father Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt, an apostolic lay movement said, “We must educate our children in such a way that he or she can later give themselves to God, freely and of their own accord, when and where God wishes. When God asks us to return our children to him, we cannot keep them for ourselves. We must return our children from where they came, our Heavenly Father, whether in a consecrated life or a married or single state of life” (The Nazareth Family, unfinished manuscript, Fr. Jonathan Niehaus, 9).
Anybody can accomplish school academics for a year. We want to instill a lifelong love of learning, a striving to be a saint. Homeschooling should be a restoring of childhood to its proper place. Even if you did not experience an ideal family situation when growing up, because of death, divorce, or brokenness, our Heavenly Father through the gifts of the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to transform your family into a family filled with the love of Christ.
What is your goal in homeschooling? If you define a successful homeschool year as doing every problem on every page and finishing all the textbooks and workbooks by a certain date, you may accomplish your goal, but did you achieve success? With this goal, you may end up a burnt out, frazzled, crispy-around-the-edges mom.
If you define your goal as the extreme opposite—Oh, just hanging out and doing whatever you feel like whenever—, then you don’t have a plan. What are “you” trying to accomplish? We need to have a goal. I need to know, “Why am I doing this? What do I hope to achieve?”
What is the one thing you want to accomplish this year with each child? It can be a habit or a virtue, not just a subject or a skill. What are the social, emotional, psychological, and academic reasons that you are doing this?
Let us strive to make our homes havens of peace, joy, laughter, and love. Pope John Paul II said the home “is truly ‘the sanctuary of life’” (Evangelium Vitae). Ultimately, homeschooling is an avenue to live that sanctuary of life. It is turning our homes into oases of love, miniature churches, in the midst of the world.
Homeschooling is not about academics or SAT scores or basketball scholarships. It’s about love. Love your children with the love of Christ. I may not always want to love, especially when someone is being unlovable, but I can ask Christ to love through me. Since we are fallen creatures, teaching our children to love is a lifelong process. In Familiaris Consortio, we read, “Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (Par. 11).
Homeschooling is all about love.