Well, school has begun. After months of researching, planning, charts, lists, and book shopping--we are here in our school, which looks an awful lot like our kitchen. While others are posting about first day victory dances at the bus stops, champagne toasts, and kid-free afternoon celebrations; us homeschoolers are breathing deep, girting our loins and plowing ahead. Parenthood is life's toughest job, homeschooling takes it to an entirely different level. Like my friends, and most homeschoolers, spend the bulk of our energy trying to plan the best curriculum, pick the best supplies, pinch every penny to do all we can to give our children what we believe is what they need and deserve. Homeschooling certainly is a vocation. But what do we do when our efforts don't pan out as we planned, or worse our children don't grow to be men and women grounded in faith and love set to rock the Catholic world?
I am continually reading about homeschooling philosophy, curriculum, and teaching methods. I seek out articles, blog, books, and magalogs to fill my head with all that is good and encourage me for the long journey ahead. However, the reading that has had the most influence on me are the many, many pages I read in the 5 years that we debated homeschooling back and forth--when I was searching for something to tell me point blank this was my mission, or steer me clear from such foolish notions. The title of one lingers in my memory and gives me hope on the worst of homeschool days--"But LORD I Homeschooled Him" I don't remember which book this article was in, only that it was the last section of the book.
The essence of the article is that homeschooling is not the perfect recipe for perfect children. Homeschooling no matter how superior your curriculum, time spent in family prayer, and devotion to good Catholic teaching, guarantees a saint. As mothers, our primary duty is to lead our children to Heaven. The operative word is lead. We can only lead, we can only present opportunity, we can fill their minds with all that is good but that is it. Each of us is born with the blessing and fault of free will. God designed us to seek Him, He loves each of us, but we must make the decision to follow. We are not robots, we are not slaves. Freedom to choose is how God intended us to live and yet it is exactly what led to our separation from Him.
In the beginning, man and woman walked with God. Imagine that, they literally walked with Him in the garden, just as we do with our children or husband. They spoke to Him face to face, and held conversations. They had everything and more, including free will. How did the first couple who had God's breath with in their lungs, were formed by His Divine Hands, were intimate friends and follower of the Almighty and saw first hand the awesome power He possessed respond to all the LORD had given and shown them? They defied His commands and followed their own desires. They turned their back on God and walked away to pursue more, then hid in an attempt to evade His just punishment.
The Fall brought brokenness in to the world. It separated us from Heaven and made our journey to and with God an act of faith and trust instead of privilege. The Gates of Heaven are never locked, however the only way to open them is by our own hand; professing our faith, begging forgiveness for our sins, and opening the door to Christ. Despite the great saving power of Jesus, He has no dominion over our thoughts, feelings, nor actions. He will speak to us, if we listen and seek His voice. He will lead us, if we follow and outstretch our hands. He will guard our hearts and heal our hurts, if we but fall at His feet. But, none of this is possible unless we use exactly what separated us from abiding in His garden of Love in the first place--free will.
As mothers, particularly homeschooling mothers, we must remember that we hold our child's hand for such a short time. Our "long journey" is but a blink of an eye in reality. Our children quickly grow and fly away to live their own lives. We who gave them life and roots, must also give them wings; and it is those wings that can take them far from the warmth of Our LORD. Those wings can make them soar, but they can also make them crash. In the end, it is their will that will decide their fate, not ours. Perhaps this is why the feasts of St Monica and St Augustine are right before the start of the school year, to remind us of the power of both free will and prayer. St Monica was a truly devoted and loving Christian wife, despite abuse and hardship, she kept her faith and taught it to her son. She dedicated her life to following God and teaching her son to do the same. However, his free willed wings flew him to the furthest point from her hopes and dreams. He became the antithesis of all she had tried to accomplish. "But LORD, I homeschooled him!"
She never wavered in praying for her son--an example that I have to try harder to follow. For decades, despite every terrible decision and wrong action, she loved her Augustine and prayed for his conversion. Then one day, it happened and that lost, broken, sinful man became one of the greatest theologian and followers of Christ. Do you think St Monica ever even imagined her son a prized theologian and canonized saint? But there he was!
There are no guarantees in this world--especially when parenting--but we are promised salvation if we take up our cross, trust, obey, and believe. It is a personal action that each must do for themselves. So, pray for your children, love them, fill their hearts and minds with all that is beautiful, hope in their faith, and lead them down the narrow road; but remember it is not your will that will save them, only their own. And even when they stumble and fall no matter how deep, there is always more redemption than fall. The most broken can become the greatest of saints, the last shall be first in the Kingdom of God