As some of you are already aware, homeschooling is not always a popular choice. I would go so far as to say that it is rare that one would not encounter any negativity or opposition. While I felt called to homeschool my child, only recently have I come to really understand it as a vocation. Every day I have the opportunity to choose to see teaching my child as God's calling, as my work for him and for his glory, acting in cooperation with his will.
In modern society, the emphasis is on "What do I want to do with my life?" I graduated from college in a poor job market, with hopes of working in the field of public relations, doing something with my speaking and writing skills. I went to a career counselor at Ohio State, who suggested looking into working for a non-profit agency, and I read a book called Profitable Careers in Non-Profits, or something like that. Feeling like I was having trouble pinpointing the right career for myself, I read another book called What Color Is Your Parachute? I had so many interests that it was difficult to choose just one thing. There is a reason that self-help books are such a popular category.
Even when one focuses on what she wants and spends a lot of time trying to figure out who she is and what her great work in life will be (always imagining something fabulous involving fame and wealth), making God's choice secondary in the matter, if conferring with him at all, God still has a way of leading one to his plan. When Beezy was a baby and the idea of homeschooling came up, I told my husband that I would not do that, because when she was five, I wanted my life back! My mom had told me on a number of occasions, "This is your life now," and of course she was right, but I just didn't get it yet. I did not comprehend that I was never to have my old life back again. And thank goodness! For it is far richer now than it could ever have been had I not become a mother. That is the truth for me.
I recently started reading to Beezy from the Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welbourn. This is a great resource for teaching history and religion. The notion of who saints are is perfectly explained at an elementary age level, without dumbing anything down, and the stories are told in an interesting way, helping to relate each saint's life to the life of the child. Today we read about Catherine of Siena, who made an unusual, unpopular choice of vocation, especially for a woman of her times. She knew even as a child that she wanted more than anything else to be close to Jesus, and she decided that the best way to put him first was to never get married. Living from 1347-1380, about the only other acceptable choice for a woman in those times was to become a nun, but she was certain that God did not want that for her either!
Prayer was the most important thing in Catherine's life, and some of her choices baffled and even frightened people. She ate nothing but a spoonful of herbs a day, and she only slept about thirty minutes a night--on hard boards. People thought she was so strange! But Catherine was concentrating her whole self, body and soul, on God. She wasn't trying to worry her parents or upset people. She knew God was preparing her for a big job, and in order to carry out his will, she had to be free, strong, and close to God. Through the example of her life and teaching others about God, people all over Europe knew about her. And they listened to her. Even the pope himself, as it turns out.
The pope was living in splendor in France instead of in Rome where he was supposed to be, because the king of France controlled him and the Church. Christians everywhere were confused, not knowing if the pope was speaking for God anymore. Catherine stood before him unafraid and gave him a message from God. He was to return to Rome and freely lead the Church, as Jesus wanted him to do. Late one night, the pope secretly left France and returned to Italy.
At the end of the story the author says, "St. Catherine of Siena didn't care about other people's opinions or expectations. The only opinion that mattered to her was God's. Can you think of times when you've had to follow your conscience and do the right thing even though other people discouraged you?"
Homeschooling can be a lonely vocation. Others, even those closest to you, may not support you, and may openly and harshly disagree with your choice. They may watch you and your children like a hawk, waiting for evidence that you are not doing a good job, that your child is not learning what he should. The first thing to remember is that God is always with you. The second thing is that you only have one day at a time. Just do what needs to be done that day. Don't compare your children to others, as long as they are making progress and are happy little people. Each child learns in his own way, at his own pace, in his own time. It may be many months or many years before the positive results of your efforts will be manifest to others. Be aware that some may never validate your choice, or admit that you did the right thing. Even when 5 kids in Chardon, Ohio are shot by a fellow student and 3 of them die, people will insist that school is where your kids should be.
Ultimately, you are not likely going to be called to stand before the pope and tell him what to do. But you will be required to stand before Jesus and answer for your choices. His mother, Mary, told the servants at the wedding in Cana, "Do whatever he tells you." Did you listen when Jesus called you to your vocation? That should be your only consideration.