Poor little Becky Boo. He has spent his fair share of time in the carseat between the two different schedules of Kindergarten and Preschool. The picture above was taken eagerly by Henry, when Will was tardy for school and I had to park the car and run him in. It was raining and chilly, so I left Henry with my phone and made a 3 minute there-and-back dash. (I know, terrible mom move). Came back to find about 20 of the same shot of my poor baby’s crying face. It is just SO Henry that he would cheerfully take pics of his brother’s tears, instead of comforting the poor thing.
^Becket discovered markers, and Becket is walking! He could’ve walked about a month ago, but that he is so much like his middle namesake (my Dad, Chris), whenever he would start taking steps, he would get SO EXCITED by our attention and the whole situation, that he would start screaming in excitement and laughing, and fall over.
The only way we got him past premature celebration into actual accomplishment, has been to not make eye contact with him while he is walking. LOL.
We gave up TV for Lent, as a family. It has been really hard, but so cool to share a sacrifice with Will, who is finally old enough to understand and participate. The above came in with his homework one day from school. He had justtttt discovered and fallen in love with the movie Rio – it was on the TV in the Hotel when we spent a weekend in Atlanta for his birthday – and so, giving up watching it was a big sacrifice!
The way I explained it that seemed to make the most sense to his 6 year old mind, was that there are so many good things in life, that God wants us to love and enjoy; but sometimes, because we are human, those things can sneak up in our heart to be things we love more than God. Fasting from good things that we really love is our way of telling God – and reminding ourselves – we want to love Him MORE than those things.
He has seriously impressed me with his cooperation… I was expecting a lot of complaining and crankiness, and various other withdrawal symptoms, but he has hardly spoken a word in complaint… and even then, it was more of a statement of wishing he could, rather than fighting against doing it.
^picking up Will and his BFF from school one day, for a family playdate after school.
We have entered the time of year for renewing our commitments to our schools, and Jason and I have both been so happy that, after this year, we both feel even more committed to making our sacrifices as a family for Catholic school. We are offering up a long commute for Jason, in an old and unstylish car that he doesn’t love; staying in our smaller house instead of upsizing when the market is blazing hot in our neighborhood; driving around a lot with a new baby (see the top!), and various other personal things. But the friends, the teachers, the family that is our small Catholic school, has made it all more than worth it.
I would say that this past year I have found myself reflecting often on the single most important factor in deciding how to educate your own children: the community. For us, we live in a neighborhood that is still predominantly elderly, retired folks. The neighbors we met who were sending their kids to the local school we are zoned for, we had very little (if anything) in common with.
Although this will of course not be the same in every area, we found ourselves naturally becoming best friends with the families at our parish preschool, who were sending their kids on to the Catholic elementary. Because of our Catholic schools, we have been so grateful to discover families we might never have known were out there, with whom we share all the important values (in an age where those values are increasingly marginalized), and whose kids I am so grateful to see my own kids become friends with.
Our choice for Catholic school was an organic and natural one, and even though we are hardly wealthy enough to make the sacrifice without pain, we have never felt snubbed or slighted in our school community. On the contrary, we have met people sacrificing just as much if not more.
Catholic school has been a much easier way to find community than even in our Catholic parish. Unfortunately for us all, Catholics tend to suck at really contributing to the community of the parish. People rarely stay after mass to chat, no one has time for weekly bible studies, etc. It can be hard to meet other families in your same stage of life just through Church. When you meet at school, you start seeing everyone you know at Mass – like oh hey, theres the co-leader of the Faith Advisory Committee waving at me for the sign of peace, or, there’s the teacher who is always in the parking lot directing the carpool line… and it truly brings a greater sense of community than I had felt in a long time.
I think that some families are called to their local public school, some families to homeschool, and some families to private Christian or Catholic schools. This will depend a lot on your spouse, on your situation and area, and on your kids.
I do think that – for everyone across the board – it is never healthy to be a Lone Ranger. I think this sets you up for pride or discouragement! It isn’t biblical. God has always called believers to seek accountability and the support of community. When we isolate ourselves, we don’t bear fruit (and in truly awful cases, as the Bible again and again gives proof, the best of us can fall into error in our ways of thinking and living).
I think whatever school/unschool you believe you are called to, you as the parent need to work hard – ahead of your kids starting their first day – to find good families whose kids you are excited to encourage your own kids to be friends with, and whose parents you believe you can really learn from. If you can’t find that, it might be a sign that this isn’t as good a fit for your family as you thought, because I believe we learn the most through the friends we make as we grow up. St. Francis de Sales, in The Introduction to the Devout Life, in fact says close friendships with good, holy people, are essential to “traveling the road to devotion” (Intro to the Devout Life, pt 1, ch 4).
For those who live in the world and desire to embrace true virtue it is necessary to unite together in holy, sacred friendship. By this means they encourage, assist, and lead one another to perform good deeds. Men walking on level ground do not have to lend one another a hand, while those who are on a rugged, slippery road hold on to one another in order to walk more safely. So also… people in the world need [best, or particular, friendships] to keep safe and assist one another in the many dangerous places they must pass through. Devout Life, pt 3, ch 19
While I consider my siblings dear and important friends in my life, they have never had the same power for me as friends I have discovered in the world. My dearest friend since I was 13 is now my son’s godmother, and a daily encouragement to me to strive for real holiness. (Yes you can make awesome friends while being homeschooled! Lol. I grew up in an area and a season with a vibrant and not-weird homeschool community, so I would definitely say it was a good fit for us!). In college, I made the choices I made mostly because of the accountability of my friends, not wanting to disappoint or lose them. As a mom, I could never have found the joy and strength to be a happy mother without the inspiration and wisdom of the Christian mothers God has put in my path as friends. My friend Catherine and I – both of us coming from big homeschooled families – have decided that friendships outside your family have a unique power in shaping your character, because your family will always love you, so you don’t feel as great a compunction to strive in that relationship. And conversely, sometimes your family will never admit that you can change or grow! – while a friend will allow you to do so. In a friendship, you can be convicted and encouraged in a different way then by your family, no matter how close you are.
Focusing on the friendships of my children, and the community we provide them for finding those friendships, has helped simplify the whole scope of education for Jason and I. For us, it wasn’t the local homeschool community or the public school nearby, but it could be for you, or for us at a later season!
I am only sharing my personal thoughts and perspective on this, because I know – I KNOW – how to school (or homeschool) is one of the most agonizing and scary choices you can make for your children. It feels, and is, enormous. If you find yourself in the situation I was in last year, of reading and searching and struggling to know what to do… God will guide you!! I trust He will continue to guide us… this is our job as the primary educators of our children! When He entrusts each baby to our care, He is giving us this responsibility, AND the graces necessary – to teach them to know, love and serve Him. Even if we need to outsource the more pragmatic parts of their education – as humanity has found it good to do for centuries – in a classroom with their peers, we can never abandon our sense that WE are their primary educators (Gaudiem et Spes, nos. 47-52). We are responsible for discerning which environment is most fruitful for them, and which we can most actively contribute to, while balancing our duties to our other children.
If, in a few years, I end up coming back on here to say – we are switching lanes! to a different school, or to our home – I will not see it as a failure or a mistake. We just have to follow where God leads us in the present, and lean on Him, not our presumptions!
Anyway. Sorry for the extremely long soapbox! I just know I needed to read something like this last year, so I might need to be reminded of it again in the future, and maybe one of you needs to be encouraged as well. 🙂