“God looked at everything He had made and found it very good…”. Life is FULL, overflowing in fact, with beauty! My soul soars and yearns to fall in love with God and all He has made for us. However, what fills me with an even deeper joy and excitement is seeing the twinkle in my children’s eyes when they too can experience goodness and loveliness; clues and previews of the glorious life to come.
When my first, my daughter, was little I loved to just watch her. She was so bright and picked up on everything she did so quickly. I’ve always had a love of learning but my passion for a strong, meaningful education really grew its strength through my daughter’s own zeal for discovery. She learned her letter sounds and numbers and an early age and remembered everything. I knew from the get go that reading would be her gateway to the world of knowledge and so instilled a love of book reading since she was a baby.
During this time I discovered homeschooling. Several of my friends were also ‘getting into it’ and it was often the topic of all conversation. Many of us were new to motherhood and homeschooling offered us a way to bring fun and meaning to education for our children. With homeschooling, I saw it as a way to be directly and proactively involved with our children’s education. The more I learned about homeschooling, the more curious and intrigued I became.
I went to the library and checked out a couple of books on the subject. Catholic Home Schooling by Mary Kay Clark and Catholic Education: Homeward Bound: A Useful Guide to Catholic Home Schooling by Kimberly Hahn.
My voracious appetite for more information consumed me. I read anything and everything that I could about homeschooling. I joined online discussion boards and even the local Catholic home educators group. My interest was particularly peaked when I read about Maria Montessori and the Montessori Method. I picked up Elizabeth G. Hainstock‘s Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: and Natural Structure: A Montessori Approach to Classical Education At Home. I immediately began to applying these methods in our home. My daughter loved it all and was a great little guinea pig in my homeschool methods research.
A little while later a good friend and fellow homeschooling mom lent me 2 books that would forever change me. Homeschooling With Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling and Elizabeth Foss’s Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home.
There are many books that I love but Elizabeth’s is the only one I love enough to hug every now and then. When I open her book, I step into a fairytale land for homeschooling mothers. Real Learning painted a beautiful landscape of what a real education for my children and our family could be like. In this book I was finally able to connect all the different methods and ideas I’d read about homeschooling and see the big picture. Homeschooling wasn’t about ‘school at home’. It was a family lifestyle choice. After this book, I was completely in love with the idea of learning at home with my children.
What I liked most about Real Learning was how it presented Charlotte Mason’s idea of learning through living books. I remember how much I hated reading out of textbooks and memorizing facts in school and how I always seemed to learn more about a subject when I read a really great historical fiction novel or other great pieces of literature. Like Charlotte Mason, Foss also placed a lot of focus on nature study and shorter lesson times which I was excited about.
Inspired by what I’d read, I transformed our home into a home of learning. I set up a little learning room and I strewed baskets of books and puzzles and other manipulatives and educational material all around the house, inviting my daughter to explore and learn in her own home. We went on nature walks, painted and created, and took many trips to the library and book stores, and spent time at home doing ‘lessons’. These lessons were not all that involved since she was only a preschooler but nonetheless she loved it whenever it was time for ‘school’.
I wanted my daughter to “gozar la vida” and see the world as an ocean of opportunities to learn and grow. Wherever and whenever we could we read, and read, and read.
Life was pretty perfect in that fairytale land but unfortunately my prince charming was not quite as infatuated with the homeschool idea as I was. I tried and tried to bring him into the painting but after a while I realized that I was forcing something on him that he just wasn’t comfortable with. So I had 2 choices: I could ignore him and stubbornly continue with my plans knowing he couldn’t give me his full support or I could let go of my plans and figure out a way to apply the Real Learning concepts to our lives while also sending them to school.
In the end that’s just what I did for I knew no matter how perfect and wonderful homeschooling could be, I couldn’t fully or truthfully incorporate that into our family’s life without my spouse; my partner in parenting.
God never wastes our time though. I believe he led me on that homeschooling path for a reason. That love of learning together as a family that was instilled in me will always be a part of me and of us and a part of me will always ache to homeschool. But I know the school is just a partner and a temporary resource and my husband and I will always be the first and most important teachers for our children. No one can take that away from us, so long as we hold onto it dearly.
Some families stay on the homeschool path for the whole of their children’s educational years. Some families go on and off the path. And some are lead on that narrow winding path through the countryside for a short time before arriving at the main road. But the end destination and goal should be the same: Heaven. That’s what we want for our children. Jesus never said it was our duty to make sure our children knew all their letter sounds, could solve for x, or interpret a graph. He told us to bring the children to Him. The tools of education are only a means to that ultimate and glorious end.
Copyright 2010 Erika Marie