Written by Helen Brearley
Helen Brearley is married to Michael who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of FLI. They live in the Southern Highlands town of Wingello and are well known around Catholic pro-life, pro-family circles.
Have you ever taken on something that seems so enormous and beyond comprehension? Can you really do this? These were the some of the feelings I experienced as we launched into the great unknown of home schooling our children. Perhaps a bit dramatic, but that was how I felt. Amidst great opposition from family and not really having any direction, except for the deep trust in our Lord and His Blessed Mother, we started home schooling our family in 1990.
At the time I had two young boys, aged 4 and 2 and was expecting our third baby that year. I bravely convinced my husband that we could do this. “He is only 4, if it doesn’t work, he can go to school the following year”. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! We had booked our eldest into school, but there was always a nagging doubt about that decision.
Looking back, home schooling was the best decision we ever made. We have formed so many good friendships and a wonderful network of people over the years. Yes, we had good days and bad days. Some days I wondered what we were really doing. I kept in my head some wonderful advice from the late Sr Maur Woodbury, who always insisted if they had their faith, everything else would fall into place. We have seven wonderful adult children now who are completely individual, can think for themselves, have chosen excellent marriage partners, and most are now raising families of their own. They are all excelling in careers of their choosing; some of them are front line medical workers, others are directors of public organisations, others are very competent tradesmen, and the most important of careers – motherhood, raising the next generation.
Home schooling gave us the flexibility to shape each child’s education to suit their individual abilities. We did have a few essential components at the beginning, to ensure that our children would be well rounded individuals. We did music and sport. Music and arts give children an appreciation of beauty. Sports afternoons at our monthly home-schooling meets were always keenly contested!
As the children gained in age they would partake in casual employment. This gave them opportunities for self-discipline and learning to get on with other people. It also prepared them for interacting with others in society, an important life skill, alongside qualifications. Most of the children became volunteer firefighters and took up important leadership roles in the local community. One of our children has been recently awarded a Commendation for the 2019-20 fire season.
Our curriculum covered the basics of english, maths, history, geography, science, personal development, health, languages, art, music. The most important subject was religion. The day was started with this, and we would pray the Divine Office together, with daily Mass where possible. We are blessed to be associated with so many good priests and saintly religious nuns over the years, who have helped form us.
Looking back on our years of home schooling, they were incredibly fortunate years full of blessings and opportunities. Yes, it is hard work, but the rewards are out of this world. God gives you the grace and the strength to get through the difficult days. There will be days where you simply need to ‘push on ‘and hand it over to the Lord and His Blessed Mother. They will get you through. I would not hesitate to recommend, even encourage you to home school. Yes, it is a lot of hard work, but how much work is too much to care for the souls God has generously blessed you with?