Saturday, April 1, 2017

What If Sarah Mackenzie Is Right?

 Sarah Mackenzie

Okay friends, time to get real! I am very, very distracted right now. My Lenten dreams seem like so much sand running out from between my fingers. This might be a moment of reckoning. I was up at 3:30 a.m. filled with anxiety. Maybe it's hormones, or the fact that I'm on antibiotics for a sinus infection. Perhaps the weather is to blame. But today the sun is out. Though not quite warm enough for porch sitting, things are looking springy and fine.

Well, with my blurry-eyed vision in the wee hours of insomniac hell, I pulled out Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace. I've been mulling over a certain paragraph in her book, and here it is:

     Whether or not you purchase an open-and-go curriculum doesn't really matter. You can pretty much forget all the heated discussions about whether you are caving in to school-at-home if you use traditional workbooks or a straight-from-the-box curriculum. I know successful homeschooling families who use textbooks and successful homeschooling families who eschew them. I don't think that's a relevant debate to be having if we want to teach from rest and become happy, content, peaceful, and effective homeschooling moms.  (pp. 31-32)

And then there's her article at Amongst Lovely Things titled, "My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Over-thinking Methods and Philosophies" ( The whole thing is quotable, so read it in its entirety. But here is a portion of the wisdom:

"It was only when I silenced the voices of educational gurus coming from the bookshelf and internet and really paid close attention to my own children that I found our groove. One does not need to be versed in educational methodology to teach well. One needs to love her child. Pay attention to him. Notice how he learns- what he understands easily, what hinders his understanding.

If I had spent those hours watching my children and following my instincts instead of reading up on this or that educational philosophy, I would have reaped greater rewards far sooner.

My children would have received a better education, and I would have been a happier, more-content homeschooling mother."

I have resisted what Sarah is saying in this regard for some time now. Of course philosophy and method matter, right? How can they not? What if we have attached so much time and energy and faith to this stuff that we have become obsessed, confused, and the very antithesis of unshakable peace. More like a bowl of jello during an earthquake.

What if I just want to be a Catholic homeschooler and take JPII's advice, "Families, be who you are!"?  Do you know, I can't even find a general Catholic homeschooling group on Facebook anymore? Everything is a niche or combination of niches--classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, following a particular curriculum, you name it. But oh, I have told myself, I don't want to be eclectic. I want to be true to CM. But I like Seton and their text/workbooks and vintage reprints and Catholic historical fiction. And CHC's grammar and composition book really fits the bill. But...what about those lovely classical principles???

The truth is, we can't say yes to everything. We have to say no to some things, even good things. 
(And you can quote me on that.)

I think that researching scholasticism has made me realize the we have a grand tradition of Catholic education going back many hundreds of years, and there is no reason to reject it. Can I just be a Catholic home educator, in complete and true freedom, please?!

What if Sarah Mackenzie is right?

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