Even though our daughter was already enrolled in the parish school for kindergarten, I attended the Catholic Moms Homeschooling Retreat at our local cathedral this past fall. There was a quiet stirring in my heart drawing me to homeschooling. If nothing else, I thought, I might make a few new friends. I felt a twinge of impostor syndrome as I filled my disposable cup with bad coffee and nibbled on a crumbly scone that morning. My daughter was going to school. We had already paid the registration fee. My scone and its crumbs were meant for someone else.
I did make friends at that retreat, but I couldn’t have anticipated how God would use these faith-filled mothers to light a fire in my heart and fill me with joy at a prospect that once overwhelmed me and intimidated me. They showed me that homeschooling could be more than just running from something, that our family could embrace this option for its own sake. I returned home to a long process of prayer and discussion with my husband, where we identified the following list of reasons for our family to homeschool.
Every family is different, and every child his own person. What works for each family will depend on their collective resources, talents, needs, temperaments, and gifts. I am sharing our list in case you, too, are feeling curious about homeschooling, and need a boost of encouragement or a vision of what it might mean for your family. Or perhaps you’re already homeschooling and I’m catching you on “one of those days.” If you are having a crisis-of-faith moment, I hope our list can help you rediscover your own “why” and edify you to walk through your own trials with this choice in solidarity.
More time with our kids
The clichés exist for a reason. The days are long but the years are short. We only have our children at home for so long, and each stage really does fly by. I liken my children to shooting stars: brilliant, beautiful gifts who will be gone in a flash. As soon as they reach the next stage, the last is gone forever. It makes motherhood into a beautiful paradox of raising up and letting go. As a mom who hungered for stay-at-home motherhood long before we were able to afford it, I love being able to keep my kids close while I still have them around.
Slower pace of life
For the short months my daughter attended a brick-and-mortar school, every morning was a scramble. Getting lunch made, the car packed, toddlers dressed and fed and buckled in, all before 7:15 am was a harrowing wakeup call. Add to that the 40-minute drive there and back twice a day, homework lasting until dinner every night (who has homework in kindergarten, anyway?), and the rush to reset each evening and do it all over the next day, I was feeling more exhausted than I had in the days when I had two toddlers and a newborn nursing all night. The routine we have now is more peaceful, joyful, and restful for our whole family. It meets our collective needs better, and in turn we are more able to be present and enjoy the experiences we have with one another.
Forming a family culture
My husband and I have talked a lot over the years about forming a culture that is specific to our family. Especially in these younger years, we want our family and our values to be the primary influence over our children’s lives. Especially in these last few years, our society has grown increasingly hostile toward people of faith and disdainful of the things we hold dear. We want to help our children grow joyfully in faith and save swimming upstream for years when they are better equipped, both intellectually and as people of virtue.
Immersion in service, activities, and field trips for experiential learning
One of the appealing benefits of the flexibility of a homeschool schedule is that almost everything we do counts as school. A trip to the zoo helps us learn about habitats. A jaunt to the orchard for apple-picking is an occasion to learn about where our food comes from, seasonal harvests, and the economics of small farming in an industrial food system. Growing our own garden from seed and keeping backyard chickens are fun science projects (with the added bonus of helping us to grow in gratitude; it’s hard to grow enough food to feed a family!). The value of being with my children to watch wonder bloom on their faces is immeasurable, and our opportunities to do that with homeschooling are abundant.
Greater focus on virtue and character formation
No one cares as much about your kids as you do. That is simply a fact. Being with my kids all day affords us the opportunity to have relevant discussions in the moment about their choices and the people they become by making them. We get to talk about these issues and they can even form part of our curriculum. A kid is having trouble managing anger? We can borrow When Sophie Gets Angry from the library. When they get squirmy at Mass we can play pretend and read about how we ought to behave in God’s house and why. I don’t always offer my children the kind of presence and attentiveness I’d like; the quantity of time we have together with homeschooling makes for better quality for a larger percent of our time.
Greater attentiveness to our kids’ gifts and needs
Similar to attentiveness to character formation, homeschooling allows for greater freedom to be attentive to our kids’ unique gifts and needs. My daughter loves arts and crafts, so we incorporate more of that into our day than we will for my son, who couldn’t care less about coloring but loves to build things. She enjoys the feeling of accomplishment when she finishes a worksheet, whereas he likes to use manipulatives and more hands-on activities. I imagine that the opportunities to tailor their learning to their unique interests will grow as they age, and I love the idea of being a steward helping them to grow more deeply into the people God made them to be.
The things on this list are by no means limited to a homeschool education. For our family, homeschooling makes them easier and more accessible. I’ll never forget saying goodbye to my teaching colleagues via email, letting them know that I was leaving to stay home with our kids. The response was overwhelming. So many of them responded to affirm our decision, to share that they had made the same choice when their kids were little. Their words held the same message: “It might be hard, but you’ll never regret it.”
It’s only been a year, and not without its challenges. But I suspect that the same can be said about homeschooling.
“It might be hard, but you’ll never regret it.”
Lord, let it be.
This article originally appeared on CatholicMom.com and is used by permission.
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