Know When to Put the School Year Aside: Catholic Homeschooling
There was just no. way. we were going to finish school by summer one year. It was the year that finding out we were expecting Baby Number Six collided with finding out that Miss Firstborn’s math program changed. Result: we didn’t start Algebra until February.
Anyone who has ever homeschooled knows you can barely start supper in February; never mind a subject you never got along with and had not seen in twenty years.
At the close of the school year, we were only ten lessons in.
It was the first time we seriously entertained the idea of sending a child to school. Now that Miss Firstborn was in high school, maybe she needed better than I could give. (Homeschool Connections hadn’t been invented yet.)
In my over 26 years of homeschooling, whenever I had doubts, God always sent the answer.
This time, it came from my friend and homeschool mentor, Peggy. She is one of those homeschoolers who raise kids you want someday. I stopped by to see her one night; maybe she could sprinkle some fairy dust on me.
She was hanging out on her porch with her married daughter and invited me to sit down.
“How are you?” she said.
A brave question. I flopped onto a chair and told her.
“I’m exhausted. My kid is exhausted. Our brains are like piggy banks that have lost their stoppers. Everything we put in comes out again. We are looking at doing school the whole summer to catch up on math or else start again in September, 20 lessons behind.”
Frankly, I thought Scylla and Charybdis* would stump her. But I don’t think she gave either of them much thought. She was distracted watching me try to prop my eyes open manually.
“Take a break. It’s not working. You’re burned out and your kid is burned out.”
This was not a solution. A solution is saying something like – “Maybe you could finish the remaining 20 lessons of Algebra in oh, give it four weeks, if you have meals and laundry delivered and suddenly grow an engineering gene.”
But God is like that. He never does send the solutions I want. He sends the real solution. In this case it was permission to let go and reset my goal.
For that year at least, my plan for finishing strong would look different. It would be finishing and letting our strength return.
All school year long we power through homeschooling. There is so much to do. It takes hard work and grit and most of all perseverance. But none of that is any good if you don’t have peace.
None of the thoughts that render us anxious and agitated in spirit in any way comes from God, who is the Prince of Peace. St. Francis de Sales
Taking a step back to regain my peace reminded me that I was not homeschooling for Algebra but for the health and well-being of my family.
Whatever happened with Miss Firstborn’s Algebra? Before I left my friend’s porch that night, her daughter spoke up.
“I’ll teach her. I love Algebra.” She and her husband and young kids were living with her parents while they built a house. Teaching my kid would get her out of the house twice a week. All she wanted in return was for her kids to play with my kids. Um, lemme think.
Why don’t you have confidence in me, your Creator? Why do you rely on yourself? – Our Lord, from The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena
Miss Firstborn finished Algebra that fall with an A. It helped that she was tutored by someone who not only loved the subject but was not me. Summer vacation happened on schedule. The kids played in the yard. The birds sang. The flowers bloomed. Everyone returned to school in September refreshed.
What does finishing strong look like for you? What are your goals? How do they fit in with your reality?
Do not be ashamed if you find yourself low and empty this time of year. Most of us do. Perhaps God is leading you to realize your utter dependence on him. Ask for His help. Be open to the solutions He brings.
I mean, He taught me to like Algebra. How much more omnipotent can you get?
* From the Odyssey – one was a people-eating monster; the other was ship-sinking whirlpool.
Worth Pointing Out
Schools come with their own teams of people to teach all the subjects to all the levels, plus support staff to fix lunches, take temperatures, break up fights, provide counseling, mop floors, plant flowers, mow the lawn, fix the toilet, repaint the doorposts, coach sports, direct the school play, and order all the supplies from paper plates to formaldehyde frogs. What is that? Two hundred people to do all the jobs a homeschooling parent does? Yet with all this magic at their disposal, they don’t always finish all the work they set out to do. Yet they still quit every June.