Saturday, March 28, 2009

Teaching Our Children or Letting God Teach Us?

I have had two dear friends lately asking me many questions about homeschooling, as they discern and decide to begin homeschooling their oldest child as he/she reaches Kindergarten. There are two key points I wanted them to know, and I thought it appropriate to post them here for anyone else who may be in a similar situation. I hope pulling them out of context does not distort the meaning too much. This is wisdom that was passed to me by holy priests and fellow homeschooling moms.

1. You have to be true to your state in life. If you are called to be a homeschooling mother, you are called to put your child's education as one of your top priorities. That may mean having to give up other things, yes. I was SO blessed to move to a new city and have a completely clean slate to start the year. That way I could carefully discern each new opportunity that came my way. I decided my children were not going to have extra-curriculars this year (partly financial but partly to help us focus) and that I would not do any service or join any groups AT ALL for the first four months we were here.

I have put everything to prayer before the Lord since then, and my husband and I have a deal - if you're not doing your primary responsibilities well, you don't do anything extra. I always ask him before saying yes to anything. So, until I got a reasonable (by both of our definitions) handle on the housework (which still means I miss mopping about one week a month), I did not commit to anything outside of the home. My priorities are loving God, loving my husband and children (which means providing for their physical needs), educating my children, and caring for our home, in that order. Math comes before mopping in this house! (can you tell mopping is my worst enemy?)

So, if you begin homeschooling, you do have to make sure nothing unnecessary is taking away your energy, emotional or physical, towards being the best homeschooling mother you can be! Sleep helps. I am hit or miss on this one, with so many personal projects I want to do in the evenings. My selfishness to do what I want to do is stealing my sleep. I am sure there is a way to sleep and still do some of what I want; I just have to let go of some things. So hard for this weak soul!

2. A realistic schedule and the best curriculum are not going to make your state in life easy. Through this vocation of motherhood, especially as homeschooling mothers, God calls us to the Cross to imitate and join His Son, our Savior. Homeschooling is the means through which my sanctification will occur, if I allow it. There is no perfect schedule or perfect curriculum. A lot of moms, when things start to get difficult, switch curriculums, thinking that will solve the problems, but it won't. God will change you from the inside out, and it is painful, let me tell you! You think you changed when you became a mother? You ain't seen nothin' yet! :) And, He isn't done with me!

Seriously, homeschooling is difficult. It is a challenge, but if it is a call from God, we have to do our best and put our trust in Him to make up the difference for what we are lacking. I believe we have to offer up our challenges and our suffering to God. It is the only thing that gets me through some days, to beg Him to bring some benefit from my miserable state. And, all of the questions, doubts, and fears you raise in your email are real and honest, but they are not from God. He put this on your heart. He chose you for this task of educating your child. He wants to homeschool YOU!

For me, homeschooling is also a tremendous joy, of course! I am so privileged to spend so much time with my children. They are not away from me. We get to have amazing conversations about nature and God and math. (if mopping is my nemesis, math is Therese's) I am blessed to witness the wonder and joy on my children's faces when they learn something new. And, I know that I am giving them the best education I can to form them in Christ and send them on their paths toward eternal life, not to mention the transformation that has happened in my spiritual life and will, I hope, continue to happen.

We think homeschooling is about teaching our children, but in reality, homeschooling is God teaching us about ourselves, about our faults, our weaknesses, and showing us that we really can change, that we really can become the person He created us to be!

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