Written by Jane Gresser
Jane Gresser, married for nearly 20 years, has been homeschooling for nearly 15 years. She and her husband, John, have 7 children.
I’m a questioner. If you want me to do something, I’m generally going to ask “why?” or “how?” or “what’s it gonna cost?” not because I’m obstructive, but because I’m more likely to do it if I believe in the reasons behind it – if you convince me it’s a good thing to do. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’m sure many of us want answers before embarking on a project that will require our time and effort.
The education of our kids requires both – time and effort, that is. If we send them to school we have to contend with busy mornings, traffic on the school run, ideological differences with teachers or other parents, homework, extra curricular activities – It’s a lot of work! If we homeschool we take on the complete responsibility for their education; we deal with reluctant learners, siblings who bicker, the toddler who disrupts every quiet moment and the possible judgements of family and friends (“What about socialisation?!”)
So we probably want a good reason for our choice if we’re going to stick with it, and ideally, do it with joy and enthusiasm. We ask ourselves, “What is the point of education?” “What am I hoping the results will be for my kids?” “What do I want to get out of the years of work I’m going to put in?!”
My answers are simple: I want my kids to love God and be faithful to Him above all else. I want my kids to be happy, to be kind, to be virtuous. I want them to love learning and, if they need to gain new knowledge or skills, to have the confidence to find it or acquire them. I want them to be able to speak and write well, to communicate themselves clearly to all sorts of people and to listen to and understand what others are saying. Of course, I would like them to be successful in their chosen job or career, but it’s not my end goal. That’s something they can work out when the time comes (as most of us adults have had to do).
For these reasons I’ve chosen to homeschool because I’ve yet to find a school that puts these goals above grade-levels and test scores. Having done it now for thirteen years, since my eldest turned five, I’m satisfied that my time and effort has been well spent. My kids aren’t perfect (they bicker and slack off on their chores). They’re not geniuses (don’t ask my son to spell anything or my daughter her times tables!) but they are happy and kind children. They do love learning and they all love God and know their faith far better than I did at their age. They are surrounded by good Catholic friends and they have no problem getting along with all manner of folk (“How are they socialised?” Properly!). What’s more, they’ve managed to get fairly well educated in the process. They have knowledge and interests I haven’t taught them. They devour books and spout information effortlessly. Two have gone on to tertiary studies. But the greatest outcome, so far, is that our home is unified. We’re all on the same page. We have a family culture we all love and many, many shared memories. We’ve been able to visit museums, art galleries, zoos and theatres when other children were tucked up in a classroom. We’ve had time and space for deep conversations and the chance to learn philosophy from great Catholic thinkers around the world, thanks to the internet. We’ve regularly enjoyed long read-aloud sessions on the couch with beautiful, engaging literature that results in family ideals and in-jokes and even more deep conversations. We’ve travelled a bit. I’ve learnt geography for the first time in my life. It’s been fun.
Their education is serving its purpose. And after thirteen years of homeschooling I’m not even beginning to get tired or bored of it, because I’m more convinced than ever as to why I am doing it.
If you’re thinking of homeschooling but the very idea stresses you out, or you’ve been doing it for years and need a pick-me-up, I highly recommend this short, inspiring book written by Catholic homeschooler, Sarah Mackenzie. It’s called “Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace” and it’s life-changing!