Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 23, 2009
Homeschooling brings blessings and burdens
Saskatchewan homeschooling family finds monthly reconciliation provides powerful touchstone
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Parents homeschool their children for various reasons, including dissatisfaction with the quality of education, danger in schools, and letting the child learn at his or her own pace. The point of homeschooling also has to do with the ability to choose what is best for one’s own child.
Whatever the reason, Mariette Ulrich of Scott, Sask., says homeschooling is a vocation that calls for a balanced lifestyle.
“The key to balance is to remember that we are not alone in this struggle,” she says. “We’ve got each other and we’ve got the angels and the saints. Read the lives of the saints. They experienced it all, they persevered and they triumphed.”
KEEPING THE BALANCE
Ulrich gave a talk titled Keeping the Balance: Heart, Mind and Soul at the 13th annual Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference March 12-13 at Providence Renewal Centre.
Another conference presenter, Father John Horgan, gave a series of talks on the role of the saints in our lives. More than 100 people from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia attended.
Ulrich and her husband Dan have been married for 22 years and have homeschooled their seven daughters — aged four to 21 — for the past 14 years.
Homeschooling is demanding and so the question is: Wouldn’t it be easier to put the children in a regular school?
“Maybe yes, maybe not. But if we wanted easy we wouldn’t be here,” Ulrich said, although she admitted that “having chosen this vocation does feel a little bit nuts sometimes. We feel overwhelmed sometimes.”
Everybody seeks balance these days with people willing to pay a life coach $100 an hour in order to achieve it.
“Our lives can get out of balance even when we have the very best of intentions,” such as when people take on more service projects in the community than they can handle, Ulrich said.
“The important think is to know when to say ‘Wait a minute’ and sometimes we just don’t do that.”
Ulrich said the main reason that leads her to lose balance in her life is the neglect of her spiritual life.
“When I fall away from the habit of regular prayer, literally all hell turns loose,” she noted. “We need to make time for daily personal prayer and we need to make time for family prayer.”
As often as possible, homeschool families should attend daily Mass “because Mass is a perfect prayer.”
“A parent’s vocation is one of giving and we cannot draw water from a dry well. We need to replenish those spiritual reserves many times a day.”
Another reason for lack of balance is misplaced priorities. “Sometimes there is too much work in our lives. Maybe we are involved in too many activities outside the home.
“Maybe we are putting emphasis on the wrong things. Perhaps we’ve fallen into patterns of sin in particular areas of weakness and they are weighing us down.”
Fortunately Catholics have the sacrament of Reconciliation to help them when they feel this way.
“Sometimes that’s the first step to starting over and reconnecting with that inner balance we seek,” Ulrich said. “Our family strives to receive the sacrament once a month and I honestly think that things are running way more smoothly than they were when we were more hit and miss with Confession.”
DIVISION OF LABOUR
“In a marriage, we always discern cooperatively as husband and wife. In most families, as in mine, one spouse does most of the homeschooling, usually the mom.
“But the other spouse, dad, can help with the discerning process; can help with goal setting, with accepting each child’s strengths and weaknesses, and providing love and support.”
One priority for homeschoolers has to be their marriage and family life. “We need to put our spouses and our children first. Our main function is to love and to receive love.”
Ulrich also encouraged parents to “feed our minds and the minds of our children with good art.
“The purpose of good art is to open our hearts and our minds and our souls to truth — truth about God and truth about ourselves.”
Children in a homeschool family must help with the chores. “My children do work,” noted Ulrich. “It’s all part of learning life skills. You do not let your children leave home unless they know how to cook and clean.”
During dinnertime, “we should say Grace like we mean it,” Ulrich added.
“It’s amazing how many families are not eating together anymore. Mealtime should be devoted to eating and visiting with each other not just stuffing the food and dashing out the door. Sometimes we can’t avoid being on the run but families should make relaxed mealtimes a priority.”
Another reason life gets out of balance is disorganization. “We should strive to be organized.”
DISCIPLINE YOUR FLEXIBILITY
Ulrich said homeschoolers love their flexibility — one of the great features of homeschooling life.
“However, don’t let flexibility become an excuse for laziness, for procrastination or disorganization,” she told her audience. “Flexibility means that sometimes we can throw the schedule out of the window but it doesn’t mean that we can neglect our children’s basic education.
“It doesn’t mean that we can be inconsiderate of other people’s plans and timetables and doesn’t mean that we can be perpetually late.”
The key to balance is to put everything in God’s hands, Ulrich said.
“Our lives aren’t off balance because we failed to put ourselves at the centre. They are off balance because we failed to put God at the centre.”