Written by Marion O’Halloran
Marion O’Halloran has been married to Brady for 19 years, has 6 children and has been Homeschooling for 14 years. Her father, Bernard Sadler, was one of the founding members of what is now Family Life International, Australia.
I never intended to homeschool. As a young single woman, I thought for sure that I would be sending my then-theoretical children to school. I was sent first to a Catholic Primary School and then to a private girls’ school. I have mixed feelings about both of those experiences but I never once questioned the “rightness” of sending children into an institution outside the family home to gain an education. At least, I never questioned it until my children were no longer theoretical.
Becoming a parent for the first time made me take seriously everything that had previously been merely theoretical, but also to take seriously all the things I wanted my children to inherit from me, and in particular, my Faith. The situation with regards to teaching children the Catholic Faith was pretty dire when I was at school in the 80s and early 90s, but now it was that same generation that would now be teaching MY children. My own faith education, being what it was, was objectively far more advanced than so many of my peers, but I was only just beginning to discover just how lacking it really was despite that. I couldn’t in good conscience send my children into a system which had failed so many in their faith development, including my own. So I decided to homeschool. My primary motivation was my Faith and how I wanted it to be taught to my children.
I say “I” because the bulk of the decision and the bulk of the work involved in this naturally fell to me. My husband was and is very supportive but I was the one who would be at home with the children while my husband went out to work. I think it is important to acknowledge that, by and large, it is the mother of the household who will school the children. But rather than see this as an extra burden, I would like, rather, to paint this as a natural extension of our primary role as mothers. We who helped teach our children to sit up, feed themselves, wash themselves, brush their teeth, walk and talk, now teach our children to read and write and think critically. Why should we think that we aren’t able to provide our own children with an education? We who knew them from the earliest moments of their existence, who know them and love them better than anyone other than God? I would suggest that if our own schooling made us unfit to teach our own children, then the education we received was indeed sorely lacking, but why on earth would we then send our own children into it to be similarly poorly educated?
So I started. I kept telling myself it would just be for that year and then we would see how we went. I kept saying that to people who questioned me as to whether I would send my kids to school too – it kept them off my back. I started to teach my child in the same way that I had been taught: I sat her at the table with a book in front of her, allocated a certain time to each subject and thought that was how it would be, nay SHOULD be. Let me now tell you that homeschooling your children will be every bit YOUR education as theirs – but such a rewarding one. That was when I discovered that this idea of putting our children into a room with 30 other children of the same age to learn about a certain subject in isolation from everything else, in a set period of time, outside of both their interest or any relevance to them, was not actually educating them. Sure, they were being schooled, but not educated. I am so thankful that I didn’t persist in that model but learned that homeschooling is best seen as fitting in naturally with the ebb and flow of family life.
Before I knew it I was 13 years in and with 5 more children and now with the very real possibility of homeschooling for another 15 years, God willing. Apart from a few hiccups along the way, some more serious than others, I have only been glad of the choice that we made. The benefits of homeschooling are many. Our children are good friends with each other. Sure, they fight and bicker like any siblings do, but the strong familial ties that are created with the help of homeschooling are an anomaly in today’s society. Our children are excellent autodidacts: I can’t tell you how much I have learned from my younger son on birdlife and marine animal life alone! Two subjects I previously thought were dead boring were brought to life by my son. I often say that I have now received an excellent primary school education after homeschooling my own children. We are learning together. Our children are able to pursue their own interests and passions without the constraint of the 40 minute block of the classroom. They are able to learn about their passion and without reference to a timetable or a test. I can show the world to them in a safe and loving environment without the bullying or the progressive political agendas that permeate so much of our society and educational institutions today. They are learning to love learning. We have beautiful friendships with other like-minded homeschooling families and we have been able to create a community they thrive in.
I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers. We’re still raising our children and have only just gained an adult child this year. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how this journey will turn out. The world can be so ugly but I believe that by homeschooling our children, my husband and I have been able to give our children a beautiful childhood and a firm foundation in our Faith.