“Homeschooling is just not for me.” I still remember standing at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of our church, when I confidently said these words to a faithful homeschooling mom of our parish. She replied sincerely, “Don’t worry, Melissa. No one is going to judge you.” My oldest was only 3 at the time, and I also had a 2 year old and a baby. I just knew that it was simply out of the question – I mean, life was pretty crazy without homeschooling; how could I even get anything remotely together to add such an undertaking? Nope, not for me.
So, just as I had said, when the time came, I put my eldest child in school. Sadly, the “Catholic” schools in our area were pretty much no longer teaching anything true to the Faith; so, we decided to send him to our local Public School. I figured they wouldn’t touch on anything religious, and that I would supplement religion at home. Jr. and Sr. Kindergarten went pretty well, actually. The teacher was great – strict, expected a lot from her students (despite it being Kindergarten), and the families were nice. My plan was working out. No need to homeschool. Just continue teaching catechism at home. Perfect!
By the time my son was in Gr. 1, the only complaint he had was how bored he was at school. It was a split Gr. 1 & 2 class. There were about thirty students to one teacher. Of course, he ended up doing a lot of “waiting” in class. Could I blame the teacher? No, actually. Could I blame the system that allowed such a ridiculous ratio of students to teachers? Yes, most definitely. However, boredom was certainly something we could work through, I thought to myself – nothing too serious.
And then one day, a letter was sent home with the Gr. 1 students regarding the Health and Physical Education curriculum. It stated that the students would be learning the sexual anatomy of male and female, and that for “safety” and “preventative” education (whatever that meant!), these lessons can consist of “videos of touching.” My heart was racing…
I picked up the phone and immediately called his teacher. She assured me that she herself was conservative and felt uncomfortable with this and would NEVER resort to videos on the subject. On the other hand, however, she confirmed that if another teacher decided, he/she would be able to use such videos as teaching resources. Are you kidding me?!? So, in other words, we were just lucky to get a teacher that didn’t go so far as to use videos?? But what about all the other 6 year olds in the other classes? Believe it or not, even after this, I continued to keep my son in school. So long as I was on top of the curriculum and made sure my child was pulled out from any such lessons, everything would still work out in the end, right?
Well, as the year continued, in addition to the complaints of boredom, I began noticing behavioural issues – an attitude that was new and that I was not comfortable with. He would snap or argue and we had to discipline him more and more. Up to this point, I know it sounds typical of a mom to say, but he was a good kid – an overall pleasant temperament (and just for the record, I do not say this about all my kids – I have 8, with 8 very different temperaments!). Things just started to go downhill, little by little. It was like any control I thought I had was slipping away.
One night, after a huge outburst, I had to run quietly to my room to cry…and, boy, did I cry. I still remember the moment – I had my baby in my arms, and I just knelt against my bed…crying. I felt I was at a crossroad with my eldest child; yet, he was only 6! What would I be facing once he was a teenager?! Humbled before God, Our Lady, and parenthood itself, a strong feeling overwhelmed me and I suddenly knew that I HAD to make a life-changing decision that would determine whether my son would journey down one road or continue along the opposite. You would think that finding myself in such a moment, things would be crystal clear; yet, I still struggled with uncertainty – that’s how strongly I felt homeschooling was not for me.
Come April 20, 2010. Our Provincial government slaps this on the table: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-to-introduce-more-explicit-sex-education-in-schools/article4315814/
Finally, THE moment came – the turning point in my life, my views, the love of the children God gave me, and ultimately my surrender to God’s Will (which I realized I must have been fighting all along!). The words of another homeschooling mom I had met several years prior rang loud and clear in my mind: “In good conscience, I could not send my kids to public school.” Although those words didn’t hit me then, they sure hit me hard now…
We took our son out and began homeschooling him in Gr. 2.
Absolutely terrified of the unknown, being the first of my siblings/family to homeschool, God blessed me with a mentor that helped guide me as I started this journey. I really don’t know if she realizes what an impact she had on everything. She is now a dear friend of mine – in fact, she is that faithful homeschooling mom who once told me at the bottom of the basement stairs of our church, “Don’t worry…no one is going to judge you.”
And no one did judge me, as I pray I never judge anyone else. But the reality is that God does judge us at every moment of every day. And the reality of being a parent is that we only have one chance to succeed at raising these children. Ask my family – growing up, I was stubborn, strong-headed, often self-centred (some of my siblings will argue I still am – definitely a long ways to go for me!), and I know that God sent me 8 children to teach me that it’s no longer all about me. It’s about doing whatever is necessary to get our children to Heaven. And for us, considering the local schools we were faced with as options, in the words of the other homeschooling mom I met on the way (who also probably has no idea how influential she was in my life!): In good conscience, I simply could no longer send my children to public school!
I’m sincerely grateful to those two moms for giving me the courage and example I needed in order to take that step so long ago.
Eight years later, I now teach 6 of my children, in 6 different grades. Sounds crazy, right? Well, sounds crazy to me, too!!
But, do I ever question our decision to homeschool? I turn to St. John Bosco for the answer to that…
“Do you want to do a good deed?
Teach the young!
Do you want to do a holy thing?
Teach the young!
Truly, now and for the future, among holy things, this is the holiest.” ~ St. John Bosco
If only all teachers were as passionate as St. John Bosco was.
My journey was about to begin…a journey I knew would pretty much last forever (seriously – I think I’ll be homeschooling until I’m old and gray!). But, the way I look at it – aren’t we always to be educating our children? And whatever shortcomings I will have to face in this homeschooling adventure, my hope is that I will have at least instilled the following in my children —the LOVE to learn and the love of TRUTH. Because that’s what life is…a journey of education that ultimately taps into God’s beautiful world around us!