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Answering The Question About Why You School Your Children At Home

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky
April 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The important lesson here is to seek God's plan for the education of your children, not your mom's or your father-in-law's plan. Once He plants the seed of your vocation in your heart, nurture it and protect against discouragement by others who have another vocation. You are fully capable of fulfilling this call and you'll receive sufficient grace to do so. Yes, He'll even give you the grace to endure having to administer 6 different tests on the same day while rocking the baby on your left hip as your 4 year old feeds you a play dough hamburger.

ZEBULLON, NC (Catholic Online) - How do you do it? The question you are sure to be asked when you tell someone new that you home school your children. Be it the curious customer standing behind you in the grocery store line or cousin Ed at the family reunion, someone, or better yet someones, are going to want to know if you are actually sane enough to make such a choice and they'll test your mental stability by asking for an explanation. If he's in close proximity, they'll probably also quiz little Johnny on his ABC capabilities and his grasp of the American system of democracy. Be ready.

Having home schooled my children for twelve years now, the query has been invoked countless times. Then, when our oldest was finishing his 8th grade year, the question shifted to the subject of high school because even though we'd managed to that point to raise and educate a small clan, for some reason, high school had the stigma of being a whole new world in the learning department.

I remember high school. It was a whole new world, but not necessarily for the reasons the inquisitors think. There was that Spanish teacher we could distract into forgetting he was supposed to administer a test to us and that environmental science teacher who wanted to know how many children we planned to have since each little bundle would bring us one step closer to planetary destruction (guess, she'd give me an F today).

The first step then, if you are thinking about home schooling, is to answer the why question for yourself. Why do YOU want to home school? Honestly, I think it is best thought of as a vocation, your individual calling, because home schooling your children is more than just instructing them in the subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic. The Creator calls each and every one of us, and in doing so He endows us with the tools, that is the grace and talents, to fulfill our vocation, our mission. So, you want to take the time to reflect on your call. 

Additionally, there will be days (when the baby is crying, your 5th grader is begging for help with a math problem, your 3rd grader wants your undivided attention, your teens are debating the existence of alien life on Mars when they should be doing math, and your 4 year old is running laps around the school table) when you will doubt yourself or when those well-meaning psych evaluations from strangers will cause you to second guess your own sanity. It is in those moments of weakness, frustration and self-doubt that you will remember that home schooling is your vocation, God's intention for you and for your children.  
 
Keep in mind that as a spouse, your vocation to marriage leads you to be open to receiving new life and that obviously led you to parenthood if you are thinking about home schooling. As a Catholic, the catechism reminds us that God intended parents to be the primary educators of their sons and daughters. So, early on it seemed natural to my husband and me that we were the right ones to teach our little ones.

Really, we set sail for this course before our children were even born, but it is never too late to be called to jump on board. Honestly, I count myself as lucky or better yet blessed, because God gave me a mission and knowing my weaknesses he hasn't offered me an "out" so far. The longer we home school, the more we've come to understand that there isn't another equal opportunity for our children. The public school system has too many flaws, from poor achievement records to negative peer influences. Charters schools are simply the same "rose" just by a different name, as are too many Catholic schools. Raising a large family in this day and age is a challenge, the least of which is not the family budget, so private schools are cost prohibitive for us. As I said, God knew me well enough to know that well-intentioned road blocks were needed to keep me on the straight and narrow road of this vocation. I thank Him often for His wisdom.

The important lesson here is to seek God's plan for the education of your children, not your mom's or your father-in-law's plan. Once He plants the seed of your vocation in your heart, nurture it and protect against discouragement by others who have another vocation. You are fully capable of fulfilling this call and you'll receive sufficient grace to do so. Yes, He'll even give you the grace to endure having to administer 6 different tests on the same day while rocking the baby on your left hip as your 4 year old feeds you a play dough hamburger.

Basing your child's educational opportunities solely on the location of your domicile seems insufficient when you consider the ramifications. Think about that, parents put so much thought into choosing organic baby food and the perfect decor for their infant's bedroom, but they often give little to no serious thought about where or how their children will be educated. Saving for college is a noble goal, but giving your children a strong base and teaching them how to be lifelong learners is a wiser investment.

Nurture your vocation by surrounding yourself with supportive friends. Read good books to encourage and inspire you. Talk to home school veterans to gleam ideas and discover their tricks.  Attend home school conferences and workshops. Finding information on the internet helps, but to avoid overload, choose a few favorite sites and ignore the others. So many resources exist today that it can be overwhelming, so focus on a few and stick with what makes the most sense to you and what works for your child. Pray regularly, pray for guidance, pray for strength, pray for wisdom, pray for your sanity, pray and then trust that you are the right person for this job.

If the idea of teaching little Katie from preschool through high school scares the courage out of you, then concentrate on today. Today, she needs to learn her alphabet and you can do that.  Perhaps, you are starting this adventure a few years into grade school, no problem, you are fully capable of teaching the basics and home school curriculum is designed to assist you in teaching.  Even if your venture is beginning with a high schooler, learning is a step by step process so all you really need are the proper tools to take you through each step. Remember, that not long ago in history, children learned at the hips of their fathers and mothers. The idea that strangers with degrees trump moms and dads in the ability to disseminate knowledge is a relatively new one.

And just as children learn to crawl before they walk, so too your journey into educating your child will be a building process, so don't worry about how you are going to teach your daughter trigonometry while she's still in the third grade. A good friend says she commits to home schooling one year at a time and reevaluates when her children are graduated from their current grade levels. This plan works well for her because she doesn't feel trapped and it brings her to reflect now and again on what is working or not working in her household. I have long felt convicted in this vocation to home school, but my calling is my own and you need to seek yours.  

So, ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in discerning, pray often for wisdom and guidance, seek out support from other home schoolers, and most of all soak in the little moments with your children since YOU will actually be with them. Bask in the joy of the baby's smile while he sits on your hip. Revel in the excitement of your 4 year old's rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Pat yourself on the back as your third grader reads a book on her own. Be encouraged when the 5th grader remembers to walk the dog and make her bed before starting her grammar lesson. Feel proud that your self-sufficient teen achieved an A+ on his term paper. 

Sometimes avoiding discouraging individuals can be impossible, especially if the naysayers were invited to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. In those situations steer the conversation in some less tense direction, like world politics. And if all else fails, tell them home schooling is your vocation. In my experience, it helps to stop people from continuing their interrogations when I tell them that God made me do it!
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Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of seven living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede (and a little soul expected to arrive in August). Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, a fish, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog "Blessings In Brelinskyville" (www.http://brelinskyville.blogspot.com/).

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