Sunday, July 21, 2013

Musing on Homeschooling 2013

Oh dear!  I don't seem to be in my blogging stride these days.   I have been immersed in homeschool planning, and though I love reading other homeschoolers' plans this time of year, somehow I feel abashed about sharing mine.   When my kids were younger, I used to look forward to the days when I was an older, wiser homeschooler with lots to share, but now that I am older, I feel way less wise than I did fifteen years ago.   Reality catching up on me, finally, I suppose!

But I did say I was going to talk about curriculum.... since after all, that is mostly what I am living and breathing these days.     So here goes. 

First, at the beginning of the year, I always pray about what type of homeschooling we are going to do that year.  Some things are continuous.   Homeschooling always involves literature, conversation, a seasonal rhythm, and our life of faith, plus a kind of providence of whatever our life brings us during that year.   

However, we do move from more formal years (and semesters) to less formal years, a kind of quasi-unschooling.   Last year I devoted a lot of homeschooling attention to my 4th grader.   I spent way less time with my high schooler and my special needs middle schooler.  So this year I'm trying to work more closely with my highschooler, who is going to be transitioning out of the homeschool in the next year or two, and with my delayed 14 year old.  So all in all I am planning this as a more academic type year.

Part of this is because of our new Pope, even though it probably seems odd that I take the pope into consideration when I plan the homeschool year.  But I do, so there it is.   Pope Francis is a Jesuit, the first Jesuit Pope, and Ignatian Education is my all-time favorite influence.   I have been praying for the Jesuit order for years, because they have so much potential even now, but have been going through the dissenter-doldrums in past decades.   I see lots of hopeful signs for the order these days, though. 

 I even filter Charlotte Mason and unschooling through my Ignatian filter, if you are allowed to do that (I think probably many would argue that you aren't, since classic Jesuit education isn't anything like unschooling for sure, but there are interesting and undeniable commonalities).  

So I started rereading my all-time favorite homeschooling book, Implementation of Ignatian Education in the Home.  I have large parts of it committed to memory by this time, but I learn something new every reread.

St Ignatius' motto:  Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

This booklet published by Kolbe Academy was the first to make me internalize how closely education is allied with spirituality.   By "spirituality" I don't mean a vague modern interest in the non-material or in one's own interiority, but rather, something between charism or theology.   Dominicans, Jesuits, LaSallians, Franciscans, Benedictines,  have a lot in common and they all point to the same Way, Truth and Life but they also have distinctive differences in emphasis.

In a similar way, education is closely bound up with the family, and the deepest heart of the Catholic family is their unique way of being a domestic church.  "Families, become who you are!" said an earlier Pope, John Paul II.   Also, "Be not afraid!"  There is more than one way to educate one's children, though there will be certain principles that you see consistently across the board.   It is a grave responsibility, but we are given great graces, some of which we don't necessarily see or feel at the time we are using them the most. 

I don't think things like more vs less formal structure are as important to the homeschooling vocation as things like respect for the value of the individual child, recognizing one's limits, striving for excellence, a commitment to transmission of truth, goodness, beauty, and something that I will call patience -- a willingness to go through a lot for our children, more than we think possible, because Our Lord first did this for our sakes.   Sometimes this means letting go, sometimes it means firming up in resolve.  Sometimes staying up nights with a sick toddler, sometimes staying up worrying about a teen who is staying out way past his time.  Patience requires all sort of things, by definition, that are hard for the natural self. 

Not that I live this out.  No, I am describing something I only see glimpses of once in a while in our lives.  But perhaps there is more going on under the surface than I generally know, like you might not be aware of your heart beating and lungs breathing until there is a struggle for it.    I do not think it is me or my husband or my kids per se that compose this family heartbeat, but our abiding in God's grace, which is like air you breathe without knowing it.
The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.

This is from St Ignatius's First Principle and Foundation of his Spiritual Exercises.    It is also the first principle and foundation of his system of education.     It doesn't sound very practical in the daily life of the homeschool, but I always do better when I come back to it again and again, even though I don't succeed in actually carrying it out.

I see I didn't get around to talking about curriculum, but maybe cleared the ground for it at least...

1 comment:

  1. "respect for the value of the individual child, recognizing one's limits, striving for excellence, a commitment to transmission of truth, goodness, beauty, and something that I will call patience -- a willingness to go through a lot for our children, more than we think possible, because Our Lord first did this for our sakes."

    That is soo beautiful, actually the whole paragraph is awe inspiring!!! Going to ponder it some more..

    btw my mum always had my siblings write AMDG on the top of each of their school pages as well as JMJ, a remnant from her school days. Actually I think we used to do JMJ when I was at school too.


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