A Bergamot Moment, leading our children to wonder and wisdom.

"A bergamot moment" by Maggie Eisenbarth (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2007 Janine Russell. Via Flickr; all rights reserved.

A Bergamot Moment is why I am homeschooling, again.

In my garden, right smack in the middle of the mounds of rows is a Bee Balm plant, red and tall. It’s there because I love its smell. It is also an attractant to butterflies and hummingbirds, and who doesn’t want to watch them flit, flutter and zip? I love the idea of my garden being a mini (micro) ecosystem, but not to the extent of inviting in deer. The children and I have watched the hummingbirds dart, settle, taste and flee from the Bee Balm. We have watched them fight with each other, claiming their nectar and chattering away noisily. This spring before the Bee Balm came back into bloom I noticed in another area of the garden a smell coming from the soil. The garden seemed dead yet there was a distinctive smell of potpourri. I was tickled with joy at the lingering scent of last year’s Bee Balm and went about collecting an apron full of spent seeds.

Those fallen seeds were not the only springtime delight in the garden. I also noticed on the other side of the gate, a little to the left, tucked behind the door, an unidentified herb. It seemed familiar, its leaves and even more so their smell, but I was unsure of its name. My mother taught me how to garden and was visiting. She recognized the plant’s square stalk as the same family as the Bee Balm and she had just read about the Native Americans in this area and the plant, Bergamot, used in the tea, Earl Grey. We filled our heads reading about its medicinal and practical uses and how the Blackfoot Indians used it as an antiseptic on wounds. I am quite pleased to know that Bee Balm is much more than an attractive center piece.

But I am not writing any of this to talk about red flowers; rather, about why I am homeschooling, again.

My father just asked me that very question and I gave him a generic answer, maybe a standard, “you’ll be comfortable with this one” kind of answer. I said, “Ummm, because there are like almost 30 kids in a class at the public school.”

He said, “Well there were 40 when I was a kid.”

I looked at my mom for her classic roll of the eyes at his exaggeration and yet she agreed and added, “Or 50; it was Catholic school and they filled the seats and the rooms. I don’t remember any kids ever getting out of hand or out of line.”

I continued with, “Well you can’t go to church in the morning at public school and I don’t like the curriculum and I haven’t been pleased with what I see; I mean even the Christmas shows are unimpressive.”

I was looking for some agreement from them, some common ground to work with since I knew they questioned if I was cut out for homeschooling.

What was I talking about, rambling on with answers that were, yes, concerns of mine but not really why I wanted to say, “See ya later!” to the chaos of the public school system? What I really wanted to say was, “The school asks for all our time and there’s no time left for Jesus.” I mean it isn’t about being unimpressed, it is about lacking meaning. My kids are gone from 8 AM to 4 PM; when is there time for family, for unrestricted play and discover, for prayers, for chewing your food slowly and for aimless wonder?

I am, once again, quitting school (we have done it all; parochial, public and Christian). I want my children to have a Bergamot moment; unplanned, undocumented, real learning. I want them to discover and follow their own rabbit paths. I want to foster in them a love of learning with Christ at the heart of it all. I want them to feel, see, and smell God’s creation. I don’t want the government’s agenda to be more important than God’s.

When I read mission statements like that of Gregory the Great Academy’s and the statement at Wyoming Catholic College, “Steeped in Wonder, Formed in Wisdom” I long to follow in their footsteps. When I read Anthony Esolen’s thoughts and ideas about restoring education, authentic man and womanhood, restoring beauty, rediscovering our history and rejecting the current worldview and its lies, I get very excited to begin, to nurture in my children all that our wonderful faith holds. I imagine them being steeped in music, nature, classics, great books, Latin, mental and physical challenges, and virtue.

"A bergamot moment" by Maggie Eisenbarth (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth. All rights reserved.

I want my family to put on the armor of Christ and be bold, to fall madly in love with our Church, to have fun, be joyful, experience life and the truth of our Church’s teachings. I don’t know how they/we can do that without setting ourselves apart. I don’t believe you can fiercely maintain your faith being in the public school system or even in a Christian school.

I want my children to understand and act on Charlotte Mason’s motto, “I am, I can, I ought and I will” as they respond to their tasks in front of them, as they’re challenged and as a response to their calling. Charlotte Mason’s approach speaks to my heart she wrote, “Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe–the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.”

The pressures in the public schools to be cool are stronger than the gratitude for being clothed, fed, and warm, greater than valuing the person, it seems. The emphasis put on kids to be kind and nice is spoken in words, yet truth is relative and the reason for treating others with love mute. I want my children to be grateful, good and generous because we follow Christ. The thoughts that fill their head must be rightly guided. “Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” Charlotte Mason.

Charlotte Mason experienced that children have the need to be stimulated from an early age by a broad curriculum, not simply to be trained to read, write and count. She believed the best curriculum was one that contained the best literature, the best art, the best contemporary science and nothing mediocre.

A “living” education as defined by Charlotte Mason is one where a child is exposed to and acquainted with a large and various amount of “things and thoughts.” The child is educated through the use of many living books, the study of nature, physical exercise, handicrafts, science, art and music. She taught that ideas were the food of the mind and that it was of the utmost importance that children be given a wide and varied diet of this essential food. Through the use of living books, real life experiences and conversations, a child’s mind should be fed on the good and the sublime, the honorable and true.

It isn’t the same to know about something as it is to know something. A walk in the woods is to know the woods, to smell it, feel it and learn to love it. I want to raise my children nourished by the soil that we fertilize with prayers, penance and praise, to know God.

"A bergamot moment" by Maggie Eisenbarth (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth. All rights reserved.

That night after the dishes were washed, the evening conversation with my parents dwindling down to plans for tomorrow and wrapping up the day as a good one, I gathered those spent Bergamot seeds from my apron, I tucked them under my pillow and dreamed of warm soil, adventurous days and the honor of raising souls for heaven. I pray these little souls will be a living example of why we choose to educate differently. I pray God shows us many lessons in His creation and through His grace and guidance.

Will you have a bergamot moment today, discovering something unknown and filling your senses with God’s creation?

Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth


About Author

Maggie is the mother of nine children. She longs to do God’s will, seek His truth and wrap it all up in a life of joy, offering hope to others. Her family is living the simple life; community, bonfires, good food and nature. She is working on a memoir, writing about how God’s grace and His Church freed her from the bondage of our culture. Follow her on Instagram @ 11arrows11.


  1. Maggie what a wonderful article. I hear Saint Therese of the little flower 🌺 in your words. She did not like school either. She also use flowers in her writings. So very proud of you. Keep up the great works. May Saint Therese guide you. ❤️Joanne

    • I love Saint Therese, I used to think she was too “flowery” until I read Story of a Soul. I love where she can’t help but break the rules and boundaries at the Colosseum and runs to touch the same soil as the martyrs, the rebel in me was moved and my eyes opened to be a rebel for Christ!

    • Thank you, life is beautiful. Yesterday my daughter discovered a rainbow all on her own and wished aloud that there were rainbows always, maybe cliche but I had to remind her that we have to embrace the rain for the rainbows.

  2. Maggie, now that you have put yourself in the driver’s seat of your children’s formation, I see that you are getting a lot of encouragement. You are the best person for the job, make no mistake about it, and the job is big. Anthony Esolen gives an idea of what we are up against in Defending Marriage and in Out of the Ashes, but mostly in Restoring Catholic Social Teaching.
    Today’s errors are so insidious and pervasive that home schooled kids are among the few who can be inoculated against post modernism. And the vaccine consists in teaching them Truth, expressed in words, as opposed to using words to manipulate and confuse. Even you fell victim to the redefinition of OUR word, Christian, you distinguished a parochial school from a Christian school. As if Catholics are not Christian. I think you meant to say protestant school. I am sorry to point it out but our culture is in deep and we have to be on our toes. Read Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power by Joseph Pieper and Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton to get an idea of what your kids will be up against and the remedy.
    Trust me, teaching this thoroughly is the real objective. The Way, the Truth and the Life, Pope Benedict XVI says in Spe Salvi, are right philosophy, the Faith and Jesus. Here is a 12 minute summary on post-modernism:

    • Emmy, What a lot of information, which I love, love to read, love GK Chesterton and will look up to read, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power. Parochial to me, means a school supported by a parish which St. Matthews was, Christian school to me means, what the Whitefish Christian Academy is based on the Bible but not affiliated with a denomination. I understand what you are saying, though, I really do. At the WCAcademy they considered themselves non- denominational, but I thought inter- denominational made more sense, I don’t know. We left for many reasons but one was because my kids asked me if we were Christian, ( insert eye roll ) but in all seriousness yes our culture is dangerous. How would you distinguish between the two schools that I mentioned above? I suppose protestant may have been the word. I thought Anthony Esolen gave a lot of suggestions for remedying our lives at the immediate moment. Do you have kids, what did you think of reading Out of the Ashes? Thanks for the info and the link, I will check it out now! God Bless YOU! Maggie

      • There was a blossoming of books within the last year addressing the shocking turn that our culture has taken: Out of the Ashes by Esolen, The Benedict Option, by Dreher, Resurrecting a Christian Society, by RR Reno (which put Charles Murray’s Coming Apart into today’s context), and Strangers in a Strange Land, by Bp Chaput. I may be missing some but those are the most talked about. I read all but Chaput’s book and they all share a theme that we are at a turning point and parents have to be aware of what is going on and intentionally and directly prepare our kids to gird themselves against the errors of our day. Each had their own take on the solution. I think Dreher’s book was the most discussed, although many people misinterpreted his solution.
        Out of the Ashes is very good and hopeful. His better book (if I dare compare) is Defending Marriage. The family today is in crisis and his book on marriage juxtaposes two worlds, one is defined by single moms and divorce which he refers to as ‘divisia’ & the other which he refers to as ‘ The Land of Marriage’. It is a beautiful, inspirational book that deserves wide readership. It puts it all into perspective.
        I have 9 kids, ages 21 down to 4, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a wonderful Catholic parish near our first home that is full of homeschoolers. It was so refreshing, and once I considered homeschooling I knew it was a good match for my family.
        Our homeschool group is exclusively Catholic and pretty big, the homeschooled kids are now becoming the homeschooling moms. We all want our kids to love God with their whole heart mind and soul and to be happy with him forever in heaven so we all have to figure out how to do that. In today’s environment we cannot rest on a Christian culture to support us, because America is not very strong in Christian culture, so we have to create a subculture so the kids can swim in it like fish in water. The foundation of that culture is Truth, which is under attack from every corner.
        I could go on about observations of success and failure within our group that has informed my emphasis on the philosophical underpinnings of the formation of my kids. Suffice it to say that Faith and Reason are two wings of the same bird and we must teach the Catholic approach to thinking skills directly and can no longer expect our kids to pick it up from the culture. Today’s emphasis on Critical Thinking is a sham, it is what Chesterton talks about as a path to insanity in Orthodoxy. We see the results all around us. RR Reno talks about Critical Thinking as well as DesCartes’ version of deconstructionism as opposed to Cardinal John Henry Neuman’s approach to reasoning.
        Here is an interview of Bp Barron on the books I referred to above:


        • maggie eisenbarth on

          Yes, I have a stack in my cart on Amazon, ha! But the gist of all of it for me, is to just go all “old school” and be simply and rejoicingly old fashioned! Surrounding our family with other families that are embracing there faith with fervor. Thank you for all your wonderful comments and feedback. We should be studying the French Revolution and strengthening our hearts to be like the Vendee. Peace to your day!

  3. I really enjoyed your article. I have been homeschooling my kids for approximately 7 years. We’ve had our ups & downs and I sometimes feel like I don’t have a life, but it’s the best decision we’ve ever made as a family. These are trying times we’re living in, and I want my kids (all teens) to be raised with a strong foundation in our Faith. Please pray for us, and we will pray for you & your family. St. Joseph, pray for us.

    • maggie eisenbarth on

      Thank you for the prayers, we all really need to lift each other. We have stopped homeschooling in the past because I felt like I needed to make $ or because we have moved and I thought I was offering stability, but now I see that life is short and I’d rather be poor and get my family to heaven. 😉

  4. Maggie,
    I am a grandma to eight at the moment. I raised six children. I was a stay at home mom to allow the children to get involved in after school activities. I was a Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader and participated with my kids in the things they did. Home schooling wasn’t real popular then. However, as a stay at home mom, I used my time to plan and teach my children about the faith and about enjoying God’s creation. Our vacations were to National Parks and other outdoor experiences. I did this, all the while I was watching many of my college friends advance their careers, building pensions and earning a lot of money. My point is that I am glad I chose the path of staying home and being able to be present in everything with my kids.
    Your article was wonderful and affirmed my choice. Even though I didn’t homeschool, my path and reasons to staying home were similar to yours. When the children grew up, I went to work. Now in my sixtys, I work part time and do all the things with my grandkids that I did with my children, while all their parents are working full time. I take them on adventures that they will never forget. Sharon

  5. Maggie, I just loved your thoughts and reasons for homeschooling. You are the best, most dedicated teacher your children will ever have, and you’re building a treasury of meaningful experiences together, as well as profoundly living your Catholic faith. We homeschooled for 13 years, when it became clearly essential to do so…in fact, pulling our three out of school at Christmas. It was the best present ever: getting my kids back! I lined them up on the kitchen floor, and seriously informed them we’d be doing something different, learning from home, and that there would be ABSOLUTELY NO fun or laughter. Of course, they fell all over themselves laughing! We embraced the gift, the fun of learning, of field trips galore (including the field behind us!), the wonder of discovery, being able to delve into areas of interest as deeply as we wanted, luxuriating in good books, jumping into all sorts of fascinating volunteer opportunities, and being active in our church. We also shared in running our place: chickens, gardening, all kinds of food processing & projects, & learning together. I wouldn’t trade those rich, full years for anything. Now one of our daughters is planning to homeschool their children. What a blessing! May you be richly blessed in your learning. adventures!

    • maggie eisenbarth on

      I love gardening and putting up food. I need more laughter in my life, sometimes I tend to the side of serious and not enough fun; adding laughter to the list of daily obligations, ha! Thanks for the reminder that embracing this life can be humorous, and should be, as well.

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