Love Learning: Together at home and with school by Erika Marie

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“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

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About Author

Erika Marie is a simple Catholic, Wife, and Mama. She relishes snuggles and free time with her family and enjoys reading, writing, blogging, and has a slightly obsessive addiction to creating Canva graphics.
Enjoy more reflections by Erika at her personal simplemama blog.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you so much. I, too, WANT to homeschool. There are many factors that make it difficult including the fact that my husband works long hours, late nights, and weekends. I need his support to do it and I just can’t do it if he’s not here.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I too went down a that road of devouring and loving so much of what I found regarding homeschooling, espcecially Charlotte Mason and classical education. My 3-year-old son is a quick learner, a beginning reader and he remembers everything, and as a former teacher, I’m afraid that he won’t be pushed in school because he’s already so far ahead. I loved the idea of homeschooling, but I had the feeling that maybe it wasn’t something that God wanted me to do. So I prayed HARD, and pleaded with God to tell me what to do, and at adoration he told me to send my boys to school. It is very nice to hear that someone else loves the idea of homeschooling, but knows that it isn’t the best choice for their family. Maybe us homeschool loving mamas can take our knowledge to support our schools. And our Catholic schools especially need faithful Catholic families in their schools, offering hands-on support.

  3. Jennifer, yes my husband also works some crazy hours so I understand!
    Dari, I’m glad to have others to share this with. I actually one day would love to write a book that is like all those wonderful homeschooling books but for learning at home and school. I’ve searched and searched and haven’t found any real resources for parents with children in school who still want to apply some of the home schooling ideas that are so rich and beautiful. Maybe I’ll get a little article on some ideas sometime.
    yes, the Catholic schools NEED parents like us to support them. This year I’m excited as I know my daughter’s teacher personally so it will be good to have a connection. I told her upfront that I hope she knows I want to be as involved in my daughter’s education as I can be (without of course overstepping) and that I hope she’ll remember me when/if she needs extra help that others haven’t already signed up for.
    I think God led me down that homeschool path to collect resources that I wouldn’t have otherwise knows about-like nature study or math manipulatives for example.
    I’ll pray for you Dari & Jennifer and your families to have a blessed school year.

  4. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. I am able to homeschool, but obviously, for many reasons, it is not the right choice for every family. I am most impressed with your wisdom and willingness to sacrifice your own desires. You spoke of abundance and I feel that one of the hardest things is to say “no” to good things when something else is required. We do need dedicated and passionate families and helpers in all our schools! Thank you for being one of those people. BTW, I just began reading a book, which you may also want to investigate, called The Private Eye. It is a simple framework for interdisciplinary learning that can be used with any age group. I believe it could easily be used at home or school or both. From one passionate learner to another, best wishes for a year filled with discovery and wonder!

  5. well thank you Catherine but I was stubborn for a while and we struggled. We now call it our ‘two-year-long-silent fight. Yes homeschooling is good and full of abundance but it wouldn’t be if it broke our marriage up.
    Sounds like an interesting read, which I love doing! i’ll see if my library has it. Thanks!

  6. I certainly agree that you shouldn’t homeschool without your husband’s blessing, but continue to pray about it, and it may be God’s will that your husband will change his mind down the road. I homeschooled my eldest for kindergarten, my husband said no way for first grade so she was off to public school, and now he has agreed to homeschooling again for second grade. You can never be sure what the future holds. I have GOT to get Elizabeth’s book. It’s going on my Christmas wish list. 🙂

  7. I totally concur with your experience of Real Learning. I could have written your words!! It’s where I go when I want to be completely inspired, exhilarated and uplifted (and challenged) – it so completely captures my dreams for the education of my children. I want to share it with the world, but not everyone is ready 🙂 I’m just thankful that the blessing of Elizabeth’s book came into my life at the beginning of our family’s schooling journey. Life. changing.

    I have tremendous admiration for the level of respect you show your husband, Erika Marie. It’s not easy, but you are blessing your family so much by your self-sacrificing love. I believe it will come back to you a hundred fold – I pray you get your heart’s desire!!

  8. Elizabeth! Wow, excuse me while I gush a little bit and tell you how much I love you and wish I could give you a hug sometimes and not just your book 🙂 I’ve said for a while that I’d send you a personal note saying as much and more so here you are 🙂 Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing God to bless mine and my family’s life by working through you and your book. One day, when I get around to my book idea, I’d love to collaborate and gather ideas from you as I think the idea of Real Learning could bless parents who homeschool AND parents who also partner with their local public/private schools.

  9. I love my husband, dearly. I would say without a doubt that I see Christ and hear his Voice the most through my husband. But, you know we still disagree and I can be pretty darn stubborn so like I said, it was hard. But we were talking last night and I told him that I don’t (now) feel that he forced the decison on me and that God humbled me greatly last year with our first year at the school and he opened my mind a lot. My husband thinks homeschooling would be a great #2 option and I’m really suprisingly and incredibly at peace with that for now. I will continue to pray, thanks Gail, prayer never hurts! it’s funny how even our prayer lives and intentions can be changed when we let God work through us. I used to pray that my husband’s mind would be changed. Now I just pray that I and him will be able to work together to be the parents and teachers God wants us to be however He wants that to happen. I must pray that my hearts desire be what God desires.

  10. p.s. There should always be homeschooling happening. As in everyday is a learning opportunity at home and beyond. Even when children attend a “formal” school, you can still teach from the home. My daughter tells people she goes to school AND homeschool with her mama. 🙂

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