And then we started having our kids. The pregnancies were not simple (to say life threatening for both me and babe would not be overstating it) and our second had severe asthma. We started getting a taste of what “dying to self” meant.
Then, we got all crazy 15 years ago and decided to home educate our children.
Do you see that tiny cherub adored by his big brothers? He’s fifteen years old now. I know how long we have been homeschooling by how old Gabe is...you can’t see the small “school room” set up behind this scene. Tiny table, workbooks....we had it all locked down. I gave myself six weeks after his birth and then announced, “We are officially homeschooling, people!” I thought that meant I was in charge. Lesson one...you are NOT in charge. The sooner ya’ll get that one embedded in your weary brain, things will start to go much smoother.
This tiny chubby cheek wonder did not ever, ever want to be put down. Ever. He cried and cried if I dared lay him down for a nap. I nursed every ten minutes for months on end...that isn’t too much of an exaggeration. I had just learned all about attachment parenting and waaalaaa, I was attached alright. What we didn’t know was Gabe had horrible food allergies, so everything I was giving him in my milk, he was having constant GI upset and distress...for months. He also was blessed with asthma. That did a real number on my perfectly arranged home education model. It went from a well put together Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum to, “Legos anyone??” This was right out of the gate. Boom went my plans, confettied and immediately outdated.
So, I’m going to do the equivalent of hitting the fast forward button....interspersed with some pictures because...my kids are pretty cute.
Peter was born with quite a few medical issues...trach, feeding tube, and sixteen surgeries later, this kid rocks it!
And then we had our pink caboose as we moved to a new state.
Lily has the same syndrome as Peter, so she got her very own ticket to several surgeries, and her own personalized trach and feeding tube. This girl doesn’t sweat it, she is has a whole house full of men who adore her, and would lay down their life for her. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Yes, yes, I know. I’m suppose to be writing some encouragement here for ya’ll! I just wanted to show you that this has not been any ordinary path to homeschooling.
Life is hard whether you home educate or not. It is messy and difficult and beautiful and broken. We all come to this game with our own toolbox filled in some ways, and lacking in others. Looking back on 15 years of home educating, with two boys in college, and my three “littles” not so little anymore, I can say this has been so worth it.
I have not been equal to the task. That’s the truth. People say, “Oh, I don’t know HOW you do it all.” Here’s the deal, I don’t!! My house is a mess, I invite people over just so I’ll get my act together and start bellowing out orders to PICK UP!! My kids aren’t perfect, they do and say immature, thoughtless things. This is all true whether we home educate or not!! So embrace the imperfection called Your Family! I have a wise confessor who says, “Invite God into your mess.” Ha! I not only invite Him, I throw open the door and yell, “Emergency!! Code Red, Mom down!”
Home educating our children has always been about doing what God has called our particular family to do. I am not here to convince you to homeschool. That is seriously not my place, it is between God, your spouse and you. But, it is nice to hear how others have done it, especially ones who admit freely that they are far from perfect and struggle mightily with big issues.
So...here’s my little list that I know is true for my family. I hope it helps you. Take what you like.
#1 God is in charge.
#2 Consult Him often...
#3 Never try to copy exactly how some other hip home school mama does it. It never works out, ask me how I know.
#4 Do run to your Mama’s side, the Blessed Mother. She is all about picking us up and taking us to the King.
#5 Relationships always, always above academics!!! It is easy to become a task master and not a mentor. Build your relationship with each person in your family, and the rest will fall into place. This is especially true of the most important relationship in the family, the one between you and your husband. Ultimately, the Relationship with God and our Faith journey is the highest good here to which all other relationships should point to.....
#6 Great literature is key. That is going to look different in each family. Maybe for one that means kids reading Lord of the Rings when they are nine. In another family it might mean listening to audio books, or seeing the play, “Anne of Green Gables.” The point is to have a life influenced by rich literature. So much is learned of virtue through the great books.
#7 Simplify when life gets out of control. That was brilliant, wasn’t it? It took me a whole second to think it up, but I’m still learning what that means after 15 years. I always seem to fall back on Catechism, math and literature when those times of craziness start for our family. I guess with our medical issues, thoughts like, “Breathing ranks first!” makes it easy to prioritize. What is your family’s biggest priority?? Start with that and move forward.
#8 God fills in the gaps. There has been a lot of untidy muckiness in our life of home education, due to the stops and starts of having medically fragile kids and an imperfect mom. I have never finished everything on my list and I never will. There. I said it. But God is faithful, and if He called you to do this, become small so He can work. He’ll blow you away.
#9 Poetry. Read it. Read it to your kids, and read some on your own. And don’t just stick to the classics, do check out books like Amy Vanderwater’s "Forest Has a Song." We don’t read poetry every day, every week, or even every month...but it is a loving friend who likes to share the couch with us and start great conversations.
#10 You will never feel like you have it all completely together. That is true for everyone, but somewhere along the way, we home educating moms think that if we just would get the perfect schedule, the perfect chore chart, the perfect math curriculum, our kids will be amazing and our house will sparkle. Yeah...whatever.
I’m done with the number thing.....but a few more observations of mine.
Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Embrace it!! Some days will be brilliant with the lessons and learning flying off like sparklers in your hand. Other days will feel like the sparkler just fizzed out and burnt your pinkie. Be okay with the uneven terrain, the duds, the beauty.....it all makes for an amazing story.
|Little St. Bernadette|
And stay close to the Saints! (If I had meant football, I would have said the Colts, but.....I mean our own cheering crowd, our brothers and sisters who see the face of God. Go to them! )
St Therese of Lisieux, pray for us! Help us to home educate following your Little Way!