Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of moms who have just started homeschooling or who are discerning homeschooling. What do I, a rather novice homeschooler myself, have to offer them? That question and ensuing doubts swirled about my mind while preparing my talking points for them. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And when you’re in the thick of the action day in and day out, taking time for intentional examination of your journey tends to get pushed out for more pressing matters. Or let me speak for just myself — I haven’t taken proper time to reflect about where we’ve been and where we’re going regarding the home education of my children.
So I suppose this gathering was just what I needed. A big hat tip to the Holy Spirit for making it happen! And what a gift it was. Our time together was fruitful and spiritually renewing, and having the opportunity to prepare my thoughts and share with other novice homeschoolers really did my heart good!
Now I’m feeling called to share those thoughts here at the digital home. I plan to roll them out in a series of posts over the next few weeks. For those of you discerning homeschooling or who have just started, this series is especially for you. If you’re a veteran homeschooler and have kernels of truth or pearls of wisdom to share with us novices, please don’t be shy! I am not too proud to beg for advice from the trailblazers who’ve gone before me, and I would be honored to hear from you.
Now for Volume 1 of the series I’m calling Homeschooling Epiphanies: The Early Years.
* * *
Discern, Don’t Churn
First things, first: The decision to homeschool is between God, my husband, and me.
(So leave the neighbors out it. And neighbors are everywhere thanks to the Internet. So leave the Internet neighbors out of it, too.)
My wheels have spun out of control a thousand times over thanks to the Internet, leading me to two states better known as Anxious and Fearful. I’ve spent far too much time searching for answers online when I should have spent my time offline chatting to Joel about the unique needs of our family. Or perhaps I should have simply just observed my kids and let my God-given intuition better guide me in the decision-making process.
As one who invests time and energy maintaining an online presence, of course this isn’t a missive directed against the Internet, social media, and the myriad of homeschooling blogs out there. The Internet is a fabulous tool for us, and what a blessing it is that we’ve been born into this digital age to see it all unfold before us. But I haven’t kept a proper perspective and balance in the way I’ve consumed the information. I’ve allowed social media to play far too big of an influence in my decision-making process. I’ve had to step back and pray for better discipline and self-control so to keep a proper perceptive with my online use.
But let’s back up that tractor. Before we ever started down this homeschooling journey, rather than “interviewing” everyone else, Joel and I should have interviewed ourselves first to discern these two key questions:
1) Why are we doing this?
2) How are we going to get there?
When we started this journey, I’m not sure that Joel or I would have been able to even defend our choice to homeschool. So WHY, indeed are we even doing this? When the going gets crazy, and it did and does, what’s the overarching goal that we can come back to, to help us reset and regroup rather than prematurely throw in the towel? Well here’s a little behind our WHY, and it’s what I come back to when the going gets tough.
** I’m in search of Holy Leisure. **
In between bouts of folding laundry, cleaning house, and preparing lunch one day two years ago, I spotted a family sitting on my next-door neighbor’s front lawn. After a second look, I realized the man was the construction worker who was pouring concrete in the neighborhood all morning. He was taking a lunch break and his pregnant wife and young son joined him for a picnic under the shade of my neighbor’s tree.
As I continued about my chores, when I walked past the front window, I would sneak another peek of the family. It was like gazing at a beautiful painting to absorb every little detail. I stepped back, folded my arms, and marveled at the beauty on the other side of the window. A sense of peace permeated their picnic. When the time came for their goodbyes, the husband shared plenty of hugs and kisses with his wife and son. The baby within his wife’s womb even received a few smooches. I walked away from the window feeling blessed and better for witnessing that encounter.
As I reflected on why that family’s picnic seemed to move me so, the words “Holy Leisure” rested on my heart. The early Church fathers, St. Benedict in particular, wrote about the need for Otium Sanctum or Holy Leisure. It refers to an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, to be at peace through the activities of the day, to pace ourselves.
Our decision to homeschool has been primarily rooted toward Otium Sanctum — a means to foster a simpler, slower way of life. I can complain all day about Common Core or what I perceive as a lack of solid catechesis in Catholic schools these days, but our decision is not an outright rejection of public and/or Catholic schools. Our school district is one of the best in the nation and there are good Catholic schools here in Des Moines.
Our goal is to foster a different way of life, to bring Holy Leisure alive in our home and allow it to thrive. For us, homeschooling is a means to achieve that virtue.
That’s our answer to WHY. And our decision-making flows from virtue, whether it’s a decision about curriculum choices, our daily schedule, teaching methods, choices of extra-curricular activities, etc. Joel and I are able to make better decisions when we stop and ask if that decision will lead us toward or away from Holy Leisure. This all may seem counter-intuitive to many. Wouldn’t sending my kids off to school provide a simpler way of life? Maybe for you, but I don’t think that’s true for me. At least not right now.
So that brings us to the HOW we are tangibly working to bring this virtue alive in our home (or maybe it’s HOW IN THE HECK DO WE GET THERE?!). I’ll pick up with that topic next time. For now, a discussion starter: Discerning, novice, or veteran homeschoolers, what pearls of wisdom or kernels of truth can you share on WHY you are or have discerned homeschooling.
As always, I really enjoy hearing from you!