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Question: For the first 5 years of homeschooling, I used [structured, pre-packaged curriculum]. Last year I switched to a different program. I am at a loss because I feel that this year was a waste. I felt VERY guilty using [the first curriculum] because I couldn't keep up with all of the work. I have four children ages 10, 8 , 6 and 4. My youngest has Down Syndrome which is a challenge itself. I have been teaching him EVERYTHING myself and not farming his needs out to others when it is I that knows him best. We also live on a working farm where "we" take care of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and dairy cows. School for us a lot of times is merely existing on our farm because of life and death issues. My question for you regards your ability to help me school my children to the best of my ability so that they can learn and I will maintain sanity! All I want is for my children to lead Catholic lives and get into Heaven. Thank you for your assistance.
Answer:

Dear Mom,

First let me take a few lines to tell you that I appreciate your holy and pure witness. Your letter was a very powerful witness of love and devotion to family and vocation. Your heartfelt love and dedication for the needs of your husband, children, and your family's work is uplifting and gives me a sense of courage. Thank you so much. Praise God for the witness of faith-filled women.

When you say that school for you is 'merely existing on our farm because of life and death issues' I am overwhelmed with many thoughts. First of course is the word 'merely'. There is nothing 'merely' about your holy work and life. For a child to be in the midst of such powerful work is extraordinary. The family is the birthplace of human beings. The work of a family is the highest order of the Lord's work within that Domestic Church. Allowing your dear children a share in this holy work is not only necessary but to my mind powerfully inspiring. Though I do not live on a farm, there are many times when I must call upon the children 100% in order to work through a challenge. I recall the time that I went into labor with #9 while my husband and I were at the hospital with #8. She was being hospitalized for dehydration due to a severe virus. She was only 2 years old. I nursed her to calm her down after she had returned from surgery. It was at that time that my water broke and I was sent to Labor and Delivery. The children at home had to take care of themselves until Grandma could arrive. Whew! what a day. I really depended upon those children. They not only came up to the task but were eager to help in any way they could.

We give our dear children so much more than mere book knowledge when we bring them unto ourselves and explain that we need their help. Nothing could bring a child more joy than to be there for their parents. Children love their parents and many times this love is hard for them to articulate. Being a part of a team and working in a family is not only important to their self esteem, it cements the bonds of love in a family. Though most of my children are grown I know that they are ready to be there for us and their siblings. In fact they are very connected to one another. They call one another and know the details of one another's lives. If there is a 'ripple in the water' they will know about it.

The younger children who are still home, often call their older brothers and sisters just to check in and hear their voice. At night when we pray our family rosary we pray for those who are not in the room with us. It is a powerful moment.

Please, please dear mom do not lessen the great sacrifice you are making on behalf of the love of your children. No curriculum is worth that. Seriously. You and your husband are anointed by the Lord for the work that you have at this time in your life. Holy and inspirational and of the Spirit is your pure desire to bring your children to the fullness of the faith in order that they may rejoice with you in Heaven. What a worthy priority. Would that all parents could see that children are precious and given to those parents that will be the best for them. (I could go on and on about this...)

Many of the lessons in some curricula are there for the edification of the Lord through the curriculum. In other words  there may be more than enough in one curriculum to bring the knowledge of the Lord to the child. It is as though all the bases must be covered in order to fully ensure that the information is being  taught. However when this work or curriculum becomes a burden and causes a parent to feel guilty then it is time to take a serious look at the amount and kind of materials offered. Curriculum should work for the parent, not make the parent work for the curriculum. And certainly it should never make the parent feel guilty. Curriculum is provided as a means to support parents in their holy and dedicated work.

Your working with your dear children on a daily basis as they help with the farm is holy and worthy. Your being there for your little boy who presents special challenges is holy and worthy. Your being a witness of love and devotion to your dear hard working husband is holy and worthy. The Lord has a beautiful plan for each of the wonderful and perfectly lovely children that He has given to you. The Holy Spirit will empower you and inspire you to do the work of nurturing these children. I always say that I can pay people to tutor my child in a particular subject or to clean the kitchen, but I can not pay someone to love them as much as I strive to love them. I can not pay someone to truly 'listen' to them. I can not pay someone to be their parent. I can not because I would not do that as it would bring great sorrow to me.

Go forward and please do not let the Tempter niggle you into thinking that you are less than worthy. You are a precious child of the King of kings. Jesus loves you very much. He knows the sorrows that you are bearing on  behalf of your love for Him. Through these challenges you are being perfected in His Love for you. He will inspire you to go forward. You are having a low time right now.

Lay in front of you the books that need doing and sort them by  those that are priority and those that are not. I often tell parents that the core subjects are the ones that we strive to make a priority each day (Religion, Math and Language Arts). Remember that the curriculum should work for you, not you working for a curriculum. CHC adopts this methodology in their approach to homeschooling. The curriculum is arranged to clearly show the parent what is core and what is enrichment. Remember that you are the teacher. You know your situation best. For example, yesterday I took the entire day off from homeschooling to take the girls on a 3 hour hike in the woods. We went with another homeschooling mom and her children. This mom has a degree in Botany. She showed us more the 20 species of wildflowers. This is homeschooling!!!!  Remember that family time in prayer before the family altar is the highest priority. I feel like if we have days where that is all we get to then we have had a good and fruitful day. Remember how your mother used to tell you that if you fall asleep saying the rosary then your Guardian Angel finishes it for you? Think of dear St. Isidore the farmer. He could not finish all of his farm chores and meet his desire to go to Mass. He went to Mass and left the farm work unfinished. When he returned he saw two angels plowing the fields for him. Praise God for His great love of us.

I like to say  that the difference between 'homework' and 'homeschool' is this: Homeschool is the joy of learning through the unique rhythm of the home while homework is learning through school work done in the home. I had children in the public school system for a number of years and I know what homework is, I prefer homeschooling.

This letter is way long for a busy loving mom like yourself to read. I apologize for the length but as you can see I am committed to uplifting and encouraging the work of dear moms like yourself. I would consider it a privilege to come to your home and help you with the 'chores'. We are sisters in Christ. Go forward and do not look back. Jesus loves you and He will empower you today.

Jesus we love you and long to see Your face. Please inspire and empower this dear mom through the blessing and anointing of the Holy Spirit to sort through her school work demands to find a level of peace and attentions to school that meets Your will. Help her to feel the peace that passes all human understanding as she continues to work in the vineyard of her earthly life. Grant her the great joy of knowing that You have a plan for her children and her family and that all were created for You and for Heaven. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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