Our Family: Deacon Bruce, Pat, Melissa (29), Annaleah (21), Michael (14);
Grandchildren: Mikayla (6 ½), Stanley (5), and Sabrina (1 ½), and son-in-law Tom (32)
Our Adventures in Home Schooling began in 1999. My daughter Annaleah was about to enter sixth grade and had been asking me if I would home school her. I asked a friend of mine about her home schooling experience with her children. It all sounded so positive and was something I thought would be worthwhile trying. When I told my husband Bruce (a Project Manager and a Deacon ordained in 1989) about my consideration to home school Annaleah, he immediately acted with favor and support of this decision. Within two weeks of school starting we found ourselves open to embarking on this great adventure with a little “fear and trembling”. We contacted Seton Home Study School and enrolled Annaleah with the intention of giving this a one year trial. Annaleah graduated from Seton Home Study School in 2006 and is now a Junior in College earning her degree in Early Childhood Education and working at the YMCA in childcare and fitness classes. The years have gone by quickly and we have never regretted taking the plunge to educate our children at home. Michael was enrolled in Seton when he was 5 years old and is now in 8th grade. The curriculum has been very challenging for both our kids, but continually we are amazed at the quality of education our kids have received. The Catholic Church has long considered parents “the first and foremost educators of their children”. Apostolic Exhortation by Pope John Paul II (November 2, 1981)
Our oldest daughter Melissa is 29, married, and expecting her 4th child (plus 2 in heaven) was brought up in both Catholic grade school and public high school. I look back with what I know now, wishing I would have home schooled her as well. I guess I never even gave it a thought until I met friends who shared their personal experiences with me about home schooling their children. Melissa is now home schooling her children Mikayla , Stanley and Sabrina. This has brought much joy to their family and to us as grandparents as well. Melissa has always been called to be a teacher of some sort and has now found a way in which she can share her gifts and deep Catholic faith in the daily education of her children. She has also chosen to use the Seton Home Study Curriculum for her children. It is such a blessing to share this wonderful experience with our whole family.
While Annaleah was very self-motivated from 7th grade on, it hasn’t been the same experience in teaching our son Michael who would rather be out golfing. On days when it gets tough I have to stop, pray and remember why I have chosen to home school. Deciding to make your life’s vocation more than just a mother, but also a teacher, I believe is a selfless gift of love.
The 5 Parenting Goals that I have hanging on our office bulletin board constantly remind me of the important reasons why we continue to choose home schooling for our children and our family: (Excerpts taken from Catholic Education: Homeward Bound – Kimberly Hahn & Mary Hasson)
1. As Catholic parents, OUR FIRST GOAL IS FOR OUR CHILDREN TO KNOW AND EXPERIENCE GOD’S LOVE. This means helping them to develop a deep and loving relationship with Jesus Christ and to live according to their Creator’s plan. All of our family and education-related decisions must be consistent with this goal. Thus, the question we must ask ourselves in every choice is: will this bring my child closer to, or farther from, Jesus Christ?
2. OUR SECOND GOAL IS FOR OUR CHILDREN TO DEVELOP RESPECTFUL, AFFECTIONATE, AND LOVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR PARENTS AND SIBLINGS. We want them to know and experience the love of family members and to return that love without measure. Cultivating good relationships within the family takes priority even over academic concerns.
3. OUR THIRD GOAL IS TO FORM A STRONG MORAL CHARACTER IN OUR CHILDREN. Like developing strong family relationships, building character takes time, consistency, and concrete action. Its fruits will last a lifetime!
4. OUR FOURTH GOAL IS TO WANT EACH OF OUR CHILDREN TO HAVE A HEALTHY PERSONALITY, MATURING APPROPRIATELY FOR THEIR AGE. We need to keep in mind all the different gifts and talents that God has given each of our children and our responsibility to develop them according to God’s plan. Each child’s personality, as well, needs to be nurtured differently in order for it to unfold according to God’s design. What a delicate task to bring our children to maturity!
5. Finally, OUR FIFTH GOAL IS TO HELP OUR CHILDREN DEVELOP THEIR ACADEMIC POTENTIAL TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL POSSIBLE. Not to prove to our families and friends that home education is a superior way of educating, but so that they can become the person God wants them to be and can do what God made them to do.
We have been very blessed to be part of two home school support groups through the years. When we lived in Cold Spring, MN we belonged to the St. Cloud area Catholic Home School Group. Melissa now belongs with her family. After moving back to the cities we joined Epiphany Catholic Church where Bruce serves as Deacon. They have a wonderful home school support group (Epiphany Catholic Homeschool Organization – ECHO) which we have been a part of for 7 years. The many home school Masses, family potlucks, field trips, special events, park days, gym classes and most especially the friendships we’ve made – have been an invaluable part of our home school experience. Each year we also enjoy the Catholic Homeschool Conference. It is usually just the boost we need to commit to another year of home school. It always reaffirms the immense importance of what we do.
[She then discusses the difficulties with extended family's acceptance/encouragement of their choice to home educate. It's always a silent issue that leaves "a deep sense of hurt." She says...] I know we are not alone in this! Putting that aside and offering it up we continue to home school for the reasons that are so important to our family.
“As it is parents who have given life to their children, on them lays the greatest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” (Declaration on Christian Education) and in addition, Casti Connubii states: “For the most wise God would have failed to make sufficient provisions for children…if He had not given to those to whom He had entrusted the power and right to beget them, the power also and the right to educate them.
Why do we home school? The answer is, for many reasons, but most of all as one home school mom stated: “We would rather have a St. before our children’s name than a PhD. after their name”! Our faith that we pass on to our children is of the utmost importance. I have often told my children as they grew that the most precious gift we as parents can give them is our Catholic faith. We don’t feel there would ever be enough time after public school and homework to effectively teach the elements of our faith in daily living. What we practice we learn, and what we don’t practice we don’t learn. Certainly one area in which the family has an irreplaceable role is that of religious education, which enables the family to grow as a ‘domestic church’. Fr. John Hardon, a noted theologian, urges parents to consider carefully whether or not we should educate our children at home. He says that Catholic education is no mere teaching of academic subjects. Teaching of the Catholic Faith is communicating Divine Grace from mind to mind, from believing mind to believing mind, from believing will to believing will. You parents are no mere teachers when you teach the Catholic Faith, you are the conduits of human life to the children whom you conceived and gave birth to and, in our case, also adopted.
In looking back over the last 10 years we appreciate and are thankful for the opportunity to be the primary influence on our children in a world that can so quickly pull them away from us and God. We pray that the basis of what has been taught both academically and from life’s experiences in our family, our children hopefully will be equipped to not only defend their faith and their love for God, but be instrumental in evangelizing and winning more souls for Christ.