A few years ago, I wrote this about becoming Catholic:
I feel like if I stay silent about the things that matter most to me, am I allowing myself to be held hostage by fear? Finding a way to write about it is definitely preferable, from where I'm standing. Finding a way to speak my thoughts is better. But ever, I write. And I have to write about what is important to me, be it motherhood, wifehood, my interests, or my faith. Because I have learned from the past that saying something about prayer is better than saying nothing about prayer. And so, I speak.
I felt the very real tension between honesty and pleasing others. To me, fear was still a huge determining factor in what I wrote about, particularly and especially concerning Catholicism. I never, ever wanted to toe the line of "too challenging" or "too offensive." I didn't want to open up for pangs of nothing more than "Fear itself," and more than that, just because opening up, pouring out something straight from the depths of my heart, seemed offensive in some way.
Unfortunately, this brought me to a very lonely place in my life and in my blogging. I was living proof that fear of rejection (for the sake of being cool) can hold us hostage, and we're never able to fully bloom without the truth. It led me to this place: What is the point of saying anything at all if we're speaking under false pretenses, or the knowledge that the "heart" isn't in it? That leads me even further, to the question spoken by Pilate to Jesus: "What is truth?" Without truth, we might be bearing false witness. And... we're on the precipice of veritas?!
The truth is, vulnerability is the closest thing to the truth. And also? The truth is that my heart is re-falling in love with "homeschooling" and in specifically, all told, Classical Unschooling.
The pro's are many, the con's are becoming fewer, and I'm left with a huge mountain of considerations, when all is said and done. If you feel like someone just sandblasted you and now your hair is flying behind you in a sticky mess, then you know something of how I feel after going from zero to full throttle about homeschooling during 40 days' time. Because yes, it was during the season of Lent that Stephen and I began praying about the option of homeschooling our kids next year. After days of fasting, days of seeking the Lord's will, and MANY days of discussion with Stephen (around and around and around) we have so much clarity. This issue is in my heart in a three-fold layer: vocation, our hopes vs. our fears, and finally approach to learning.
First, let's talk about vocation. Pam Barnhill said in episode 28 of The Schole Sisters podcast, "Children somehow are doing this 'education is a life' are doing this anyway, and then school messes it up. It's instinctual- like the way they learn naturally- and then some forms of schooling come along and muck it up a little bit." Very literally, if I become a homeschooling Mama, my vocation will change. I'm not just a party-throwing, van-driving, poop-wiping Mama. I'll be an educator. (And I don't want to mess that up!) I'll be a lesson-planner, a pre-reader, a Bible-memory-leader, a nature journaler, a motivator. I want to be sure I'm setting the example that education is an atmosphere, a life.... but I also do not want to raise kids who can't be prepared, on time, and finished with lessons, which is something I fear of homeschooling.
Hopes vs. Fears
Homeschooling has wonderful and plentiful PRO's-- it is cheaper, we could be more independent, we could travel more. Homeschooling and "unschooling" is an approach I associate with more creative and inspired learning. We can take a retreat from normal methods, read more, play more, recover more (!!!!) from various outings and agendas. We can become involved in the co-op at our parish which in turn, means new friendships and new opportunities and outings.
As for the con's.... is it all romaticized? The first thing that comes to mind is long days, being cooped up in the house despite winter, doldrums, and tantrums. I fear losing touch with school and all that goes with that- criss cross applesauce, parties, people, schedules, routines, and the stability that comes with the whole system of Catholic schooling.
What if our kids fall behind?! What if they don't learn to read well?! Or at all?! To me, mediocre homeschooling is not an option. In fact, after the rigor we have experienced and tasted at Catholic school, poor homeschooling terrifies me. Bad school is better than terrible homeschooling and mediocre scholarship is better than not learning much at all... that is, no mastery of lessons and worse, feeling uninspired and hopeless at the end of the day. (RIGHT?!) In my humble (or maybe not - so- humble!) opinion, homeschooling needs to be not only an inspiring, creative experience. It must also be rigorous, serious, and fruitful.
The other huge consideration is my mental illness and my history with breakdowns. I'm extremely sensitive and I've been hurt by friends and family in the past. I have suffered with intolerable cruelty, pangs of inadequacy, and waves of rejection and self-doubt. I have bowed down under the temptation to self-hatred. Hopelessness has become a constant companion. My ability to "rise above" gets harder as I get older and face the struggles of life.
So, what about that?! What about Stephen? His place in the home? His place in the homeschool room? Stephen got his masters in Classics and Liberal arts from St. John's college. He is planning to help teach. Recently I have gone off anti-depressants, but I'm still taking anti-anxiety meds. What about that?
And what about all of the other fears? Legalism? Prison sentence? Indoctrination? Squashing their dreams or exasperating them? What if I become exasperated? What if I lose my temper -- daily? Surely I would not be an adequate homeschooling Mama. I'm an introverted, short-tempered, feeling, Enneagram seven. I don't even know Greek. Or Latin. How is that even remotely an option???
Approach to Learning
On the one hand, being a genius is of course an intimidating requirement! I have to be myself. I have to know what that is. (I have limits. I have never read Aquinas, but Stephen has... I've read Dante and Shakespeare. The list goes on.... for both sides...) But it quite frankly depresses me when I read about the oft-mentioned approach to homeschooling that champions the other extreme: "taking it easy" and being "restful" and you know the whole taking-today-off because IT! DOESN'T! MATTER! Just do a puzzle!! Really, guys. A sticker book maybe? Shake a tambourine? Take the whole day off?
I like the ideal that homeschooling is and should be refreshing. We hold dear the philosophy of having minds inspired to higher things, yada yada. We believe in classic, living literature. We believe books have power insofar as they bring out the life in the youngster. We believe in an education of distinction and worth. Sooooo, taking it too easy and just going for a daily 'nature walk'? I think and fear that for me, the other extreme comes from a place of sloth. I don't like the lazy in me, at all, so all told, I don't give that attitude room in my heart or soul. I don't want my kids falling behind, just because I want to do something such as sleep in, take a day off, or because I don't have the heart to discipline. What if I must face the big issues, such as taking away screens from a child or children for an entire week. (AGH) I can't fear laying down the law- in order to do math. Or reading. Or whatever needs to be done. If it needs to be done, then do it because put simply, it just needs to be done! My approach in a nutshell, is that the results should feel deeply fruitful. Our kids can and should (must!) learn how to learn, do the work, and grow spiritually and intellectually, in measurable amounts.
No I am not everything. But, then I come back to the perks. After spending an entire Lent in prayer, the Holy Spirit drags me back to the perks, and they've become undeniable. It would have to be a rigorous, meritorious, Catholic education of the highest caliber. But now, I feel the hope in my spirit. The wings of hope have dampered down my fears, and now I can't say it's impossible, because simply? It feels so. right.
God help us, we're becoming a homeschooling family. In the Fall. (!!!)