This summer I was supposed to read The Brothers Karamazov for one of my book clubs and The Idiot for another, but I didn’t. I read a bunch of books about homeschooling instead. How can I be so boring?
Okay, so these books are definitely lighter reading than Dostoevsky, which helped, and over the summer I need some major inspiration to get ready for a new school year.
Catholic Homeschooling: A Handbook for Parents, by Dr. Mary Kay Clark
This book is a tome. I enjoyed reading the detailed history of Catholic education in America and the extensive quotes from papal documents on the responsibility of Catholic parents to provide a Christian education for their children, but it’s a long book that could be used as reference material rather than read cover to cover.
My favorite chapter was the one on teaching children with special needs. It spoke to my experience exactly, that of trying to balance a high standard for academics and behavior with the grace and patience that children who learn differently absolutely must have from a parent. Of course all children need high standards and gracious parents, but some children just need more of everything–more discipline, more structure, more grace, more patience.
The author acknowledged something I have noticed, how special the sacraments are to children who struggle to behave and sit still in Mass way beyond the preschool years.
3 books by Ginny Seuffert
Ginny Seuffert was the first speaker I ever heard talk about homeschooling. Way back when William was about 2 years old, I went to my first homeschooling conference, and she was the keynote speaker.
I remember her saying that Catholic parents have the responsibility to ensure that their child’s education is Catholic, rigorous, and orderly. For parents of an older generation, the obvious answer was to send them to the local parish school.
One of Ben and Marie’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teachers told me that when she was sending her 9 children to a Catholic school in the 1960s, the tuition was $70 per month. Not $70 per child, but $70 total. A friend of mine said she and her 5 siblings went to Catholic school for $20 per week in the 1970s. Today at those parish schools the cost would be about $700 per month, PER CHILD.
Of course some families find a good public school and supplement it with religious education, but obviously a lot of us have decided to homeschool. Anyway, Ginny has been homeschooling since the days of “stay inside so the truant officer won’t see you” and she has lots of good advice.
I got each of these books for $1 on Kindle. They are short and easily read in an afternoon. Here are some quotes:
Parents giving constant attention to their children is a relatively new phenomenon. Until recent years, children were expected to learn how to amuse themselves and take care of their own needs at a very early age. This led to confident and competent young people. Constantly providing for all of your children’s wishes and needs causes them to become overly dependent. Colleges today are troubled by helicopter parents who continue to hover over young adults who have difficulty making decisions for themselves.
Nip that nonsense in the bud!
If your son wants to go somewhere with his friends, and you do not think it is a good idea, just say no. If he argues with you, cut him short. “I am not going to change my mind, so there is no sense in your arguing with me.”
Now if you have allowed your children to yell at you in the past or be otherwise disrespectful, he might start to holler or say nasty things, and you would have the understandable desire to yell back, “Don’t you speak to me that way!”
Remember that the only reason your son is yelling at you is because you have tolerated this in the past. Accept his bad behavior as a penance for your past sins and walk away. Refuse to engage him. “I am not listening to you when you speak disrespectfully.” Later, when you and he have calmed down, you may add a punishment, “You are certainly not going to to watch TV tonight after the way you spoke to me this afternoon,” or you may simply discuss his behavior. Make it straightforward. “Do not ever raise your voice to me. I expect an apology.”
I am guilty above all other parents of trying unsuccessfully to reason with disrespectful children rather than disciplining them immediately. I really appreciated that passage.
To manage a household, it is essential to spend as much time there–in the house–as possible. Catholic parents with young children, often welcoming a new baby every two years, need to set careful priorities during these irreplaceable early years of the children’s live. The value of any activity outside the home, no matter how worthy, must be carefully weighed against the time away from spouse and children. No pro-life work, no parish involvement, no cultural experience will compensate for neglected children. There will always be worthy causes and activities, but your two-year-old will never be a toddler again, and your house can easily spin out of control.
This is another good one for me:
Consider if you are spending too much time designing and procuring your child’s curriculum, and remind yourself that often this time is better spent actually teaching.
On spending too much energy decorating for the holidays:
Mother Teresa said we must ask ourselves if St. Joseph were looking for safe shelter for the Blessed Mother and the Holy Child, could we offer them our home? Would the Holy Family enter a house of prayer and Christian charity, or would we be ashamed to have them witness our petty squabbles and selfish attitudes? Your entire home should be a living Nativity scene, focused on the Child born in Bethlehem, and alive with hosannas in thanksgiving for the salvation God has sent His people.
That quote reminded me of a story in Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls where a poor shepherd boy asks Jesus why he doesn’t just reveal his glory to the world so that everyone will believe in him. An ornate statue of the child Jesus in the church where the boy is praying comes to life and invites the boy to exchange clothes with him and see what happens.
The shepherd boy removes his rags and puts on the rich robes and crown of the Infant of Prague and walks to the nearest neighbor, a wealthy man. The rich man sees what he thinks is the child Jesus coming to take him to judgment and frantically calls his butler to ask Jesus to wait another day or two so he has time to return money he has extorted and pay his laborers a fair wage.
The shepherd boy disguised as the Son of God then walks to a large, poor family and asks if he may spend the night. The family, actually praying when he arrives, is too ashamed of their meager home and turns the one to whom they are praying away.
Finally he shows up at the home of a religious hermit, who says his sins are too great for him to house the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The King of kings has nowhere to lay his head.
It’s good to remember the ultimate end of a Christian home, creating a space for the Lord in our lives.
Check out Jessica’s site for more books!