How did I end up homeschooling in the first place? That’s a long story that I would be happy to expound on at another time, but let’s just say that God has a way of putting you exactly where you are supposed to be if you are open to Him. I found myself at Christiana after being a part of the public school system as a student through graduate school, teaching and sending my children to Catholic schools outside of DC for twelve years and homeschooling at home for a year and a half. My introduction to classical education was a boys’ school called Avalon in Gaithersburg where my son, Sam, attended for two years. I fell in love with idea of a classical education. Here were young boys competing in poetry recitations, learning the code of chivalry, coming home with tales of fort wars that were very loosely supervised by male teachers during recess. I saw my son, who was reserved and melancholic by nature thrive in this environment.
Here I am years later trying to piece together what a classical education should look like, and I keep circling around the transcendental ideas of goodness, truth and beauty. A seminarian recently informed me that unity should also be included in that category, which felt like a wonderful truth in and of itself. Unity – that seems like something worth striving for in my family, my community and even in my own mind. But I digress.
How does Christiana help me in my goals of educating my children in loving the good, the true, the unified, the beautiful? Well, first of all, my goals (with the help of daily prayer) are always front and center when I come to the table to educate my children. I try not to lose the forest for the PERFECT-your-paper-checklist trees. I would like to say I have great organizational techniques to getting it all done, but my dirty secret is that we don’t get it all done. Does that mean we don’t even try? No. Absolutely not. We try to fulfill every demand made by the tutors. I am a tutor. I do not assign busy work and my experience tells me that most tutors at CHA don’t either.
My children know there is an order to getting our work done. We tackle writing, math, and grammar first. Those subjects are closely supervised by me. They are hopefully completed before we break for lunch. My younger children are also expected to complete 15 minutes of reading instruction or phonics as well. My father comes over Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few hours to help me with this. He’s had to learn a lot in this process as well. After lunch we tackle Latin, history, and science. I have a big dry erase board where my kids are supposed to erase the subjects as they complete them. I have Latin vocab review and Latin written work in two different categories.
Sometimes, life gets in the way. Maybe it’s a child that needs to go to the emergency room on a Tuesday, or a funeral we need to attend in another state, or someone is having a particularly hard day and it derails everyone. What then? Then I remember what God has given me, my couple of loaves and fish sitting in my basket. I bring my love of learning, my curiosity, and my sense of humor to Jesus who multiplies those measly gifts and gets us through miraculously. My kids are not generally straight A students. Sometimes, they need to turn things in late, or get a zero, to ensure a greater good. I question whether CHA is the right fit for them. But then I come across a notebook full of my melancholic son’s great book notes, I hear my teenager tell me how grateful he is for his family, I listen as my elementary and middle school aged kids all recite the Charge of the Light Brigade, and I am told by my oldest daughter that her favorite book is Crime and Punishment. I remember what I learned in school and how I felt about my family at age 18 and what my favorite book was as a young adult (did I even have a favorite book?) and I realize my children, despite the craziness of this life, are getting a better education than I did, and they are happier people than I was for it.
I can’t give them this education on my own. I am humble enough to realize that. I realize that what I do give them is imperfect and that God’s grace is necessary to get us through the day. The people I have seen who are focused on making sure they get everything done and done perfectly generally do not last at CHA. I don’t judge the families that have decided to move on. I miss them but I don’t pretend to know what is best for them. I do know that I can’t educate my children without the other families at CHA, so I thank God for the ones that stay.
So, here I sit willing to face the difficulties tomorrow will bring with God’s help. With His Grace, I will keep moving forward. I might even get to those pots and pans before I need to make dinner all over again.