When we started homeschooling, I never anticipated the full impact it would have on our family. I never dreamed it would in any way influence our faith life, or test and strengthen our marriage. And I certainly never thought it had anything to do with my vocation. I know everyone who embarks on the homeschool journey does so for different reasons. However, I think it is safe to say that generally, we all do it because we believe it is a good thing, if not the best thing, for our children. It is good for our children for a multitude of reasons. And you know what? It is also good for marriage, for our vocation as parents, AND for our faith.
Homeschooling for my family started out as a bit of an experiment. (We were actually only homeschooling one of two children at the time.) I thought it sounded great, I was convinced from the research that it was good for the kids (if we could do it right), I liked the idea of a flexible schedule for our family, and we figured if we messed things up it wouldn’t harm the kids too much since they were still so young. I admit, we never considered any other factors.
Six years and two additional kids later, there is no doubt in our minds that this was God’s plan for our family all along. We did not accidentally stumble into this as I used to tell people. God has used homeschooling as a way to bring our family closer to Him. Our thinking has changed greatly as we have grown in our faith. My husband’s role and his support of our homeschooling has also changed. He was always supportive, but it was more of an “I support you doing this, and if it doesn’t work out I’m okay with the kids going to public school.” We both felt that way, but God has since opened our eyes and our hearts to the beauty of his plan.
We are now fully aware that it is His plan, not ours. We strive daily to give it up to Him, and stay out of His way. And yes, we fail. Often. Why? Because it’s hard. Because we’re human. It is so easy to let the demands of homeschooling take top priority in the day-to-day, and just as easy to be humbled by the reality that it is, in fact, NOT the priority. I know that years of marriage, years in the Catholic Church, years homeschooling, number of children, etc., all play a factor in where we are on the homeschool journey. But, no matter where we are on the journey, I firmly believe that homeschooling is a gift that can help us improve in many areas. Yes, it’s good for our kids, but it is also good for the entire family.
I can honestly say my marriage is stronger because we homeschool. We are far from perfect. There are always challenges. We have felt the strain that multiple kids and homeschooling can put on a marriage. And here is what I have learned: I can’t do this on my own. I had to learn the hard way that it’s not my homeschool. It’s my husband’s. Here is the message God gave me, but I struggled to accept: “Even though as mom you often carry the heaviest burden of the daily grind, even though you may be the main one doing the academic work in addition to everything else you are called to do, it is his homeschool. As the earthly head of your family, it is ultimately his responsibility. And as your Heavenly Father, it is my homeschool.” Whoa! You know what else? My husband had to learn that, too. When I hit my knees in desperate prayer the answer always comes back pretty simply. “You’re not alone. I’ve got this. Give it to me… through your husband. Let him lead.” So, I do. And then the burden lightens. He’s leading, but we’re a team. We’re in it together, as partners, as friends, and isn’t life always better that way? I have learned that I cannot successfully homeschool my children according to God’s plans if I don’t work to make my marriage what God designed it to be.
As a family, we have also grown significantly in our faith through homeschooling. How? Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll be darned if I haven’t learned a thing or two (or three thousand) as we read through those Baltimore Catechism and Faith and Life books together. Suddenly, it isn’t just about checking off the lessons completed but whole family learning as we pull out the Bible and the Catechism or apologetic cards to learn more about a particular topic. Now, lessons learned through that “schooling” are being shared at the dinner table. Which often leads to reading from the Bible, or reading a saint story, or family prayer.
Our flexible schedule has allowed us to have earlier dinner times, so we have more free time in the evening before little ones go to sleep. This gives us more family time, which in turn allows us to feel comfortable with a weekly night away for adult bible study, or other meetings or ministry involvement at our parish.
As we have become more involved in our parish, we have developed friendships that have helped us grow in our faith and our vocation. As we have become more involved in the Catholic homeschooling community here in the Austin diocese, we suddenly feel like part of a big family. The relationships we develop along the way are a huge part of the journey. The relationships in which we encourage each other, lean on each other, inspire each other and learn from each other are all part of God’s plan, too. He never intended for us to do this alone.
I am convinced homeschooling has strengthened our marriage, our family, our vocation and our faith. That’s a lot more than I bargained for when we took the leap. What a blessing! As parents, as homeschoolers, we face so many challenges. It is easy to get discouraged or distracted by the daily grind, to get lost in it…to forget that it’s a blessing. So, it is in those moments that I have to step back and remember, it is not just about curriculum, checklists, test scores, or really academic achievement at all. It is in fact, if we allow it to be, a journey that puts our families on a pathway to heaven.