Liturgical Living: Educating the Whole Child

Nov. 13, Feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian native and the first U.S. citizen to be canonized.  She became a missionary to the poor and sick in the United States and died alone in a chair in the hospital while make dolls for orphans for a Christmas party.  At the time of her death, over 5,000 children were receiving care in her various institutions.  Mother Cabrini is the patroness of hospital administrators, immigrants, and orphans.

Now that my son is in childcare--though he's only in another room of the small building, while I'm in the office--I find my thoughts hovering around and circling back to the concept of education.

I tutored three home-schooled children for a total of almost two years.  Basically, I was their English and literature teacher.  The experience was a powerful blessing and one that made a lasting impression.  I'd always wanted to be home-schooled, since I begged my mother to withdraw me from public education around the age of seven; but this really cemented the longing.  After this, I thought I would like to home-school my children some day, if I were blessed with any.  And as the years run irreversibly, I've grown more and more attracted to the possibility.

Over those years, I've gleaned little bits of information here and there about different educational styles and pedagogues.  I like aspects of several different methods.  As of yet, not one pure style fits the bill.  Not that it's necessary.  As I've interviewed home-schooling families, I'm surprised-yet-not-surprised to learn that a tailored approach to education rather than a textbook one, no pun intended, is the norm rather than the exception.

My son will be three years old in February, and while I'm in no rush to cut short his infancy and hurry him into the long, intimidating span of his educational career (which could last anywhere from thirteen to twenty-three years, depending on whether or not he decides to pursue higher learning and how much), I see the foundational building blocks being laid already in his pre-pre-pre-K class for the standard approach that will follow.  I don't know much about Common Core or the politics surrounding it.  But I do know that I want to be able to have full input into my child's education; be witness to and protect his cherished childhood experiences; and to address the formation and cultivation of his whole person, spirit as well as mind and body, giving him a firm foundation in the Catholic Faith and Liturgy.

So, almost unintentionally, I've gathered a small collection of the traits and aspects of home-schooling I appreciate.  It remains only for me to turn them around and examine them closely, weed out the parts I like, snip here, knead there, until I've got something resembling a rude rubric and/or curriculum.

I like the child-led learning of the Montessori school of education.  I adore the seasonal rootedness of Waldorf and its reverence for fairy tales.  Unschooling is very attractive to my undisciplined side.  And yet again, classical education formed my great role models--Tolkien, Chesterton, Lewis--as well as everyone else in the western hemisphere over the last two thousand years.  Charlotte Mason's living books promise to banish dry learning.  Elizabeth Ann Seton anchors everything in the Faith.

I'd like to hear more.  What method of homeschooling do you use, have used, or intend to use?  Or do you combine methods, or just "wing it"?  What have you heard, the good and the bad, about these different pedagogues?  What are plans for children's future schooling, in or out of the traditional school setting?  And why have you chosen this for your family?



  1. My mom mixed curricula and ideas at will, which I am all in favor of--you can do what works for you. I remember Saxon math best, because that was the one textbook set I used consistently throughout middle and high school.

    I may be misunderstanding the principle, but unschooling (as a consistent practice) is the one that tends to worry me. My parents were not unschoolers, but with one person handling all the teaching, lack of breadth in the education is a constant possibility. One of my few regrets about homeschooling is that I feel like I could have used more consistent learning in all the standard subjects year by year--although I got my GED without the slightest difficulty and honestly, it's not like public school would've necessarily been better. But I do have pretty strong feelings about children being given a basic classical education and sufficient preparation for college should they desire to go, whether or not they want it at the time.

    One of the best things my parents did was partner with other homeschooling families so different parents could teach to their strengths. I loved the one or two years where a little group of us had math and music from my mom, science from one dad, computer science from another, and home ec and P.E. from another mom. It's not always possible, but it's nice when it's available.

  2. We aren't planning on homeschooling at the moment - work/finance needs will probably require public schooling. At the moment we have a private Catholic school that we could afford with a little assistance, and a lot of public/private options around our town (regular public, montessori based, etc.) My ideal is that we can use our districts "Dual enrollment" policy and keep my kids in approx 50% public school for their first 3-4 years. I'd love to allow them time in school as needed with our schedules, but still allow a lot of home play and home learning in those early years (about 5 - 8 years old).

    At the moment (my son is 2.5) we'll be using a little daycare/preschool as needed, but starting with something of a formal home preschool around our schedules in the next year or so. I'm in no rush to start his school years as well. Then take advantage of half day kindergarten at the public school and then reevaluate. Because of H's birthday we have four years before we need to make any further decisions before 1st grade so I'm trying not to jump into any formal decisions.

    I'm a little odd too, I'll admit, because if there's a time I want my kids out of public school it's our "Junior High" years - which is typically age 12-14, and the roughest years to be in public school. Luckily, by then we will be at a point in life to seriously consider this at that point.

  3. Seth was home-schooled....I think sort of un-schooled..but being unschooled by a history/english teacher with a strong Germanic tendency toward order is, I think, different than being unschooled by an undisciplined enthusiast for life in general..He came out well enough. ;) We're planning to home-school, but the how's are sort of vague to me, and if we're blessed with more kids, will need to be tailored to fit the different personalities and strengths and interests of each...which is of course, a big problem with standard schooling - they can't really do that. Hmm..I love Montessori too!

  4. I think I could have written this post, verbatim (okay, not verbatim. You're a much more talented writer than me) 4 years ago. I gives me chills to think about where you will be with schooling in a few years.

    We lean towards CM, but like most (all?) homeschool families I know, we are not purists. I felt like her beliefs resonated more deeply with me than other styles I read about (and I read about a lot). CM and classical have a lot in common, as do CM and Waldorf in a completely different way. Montessori and Waldorf can work together well, although some people swear it can't. I've seen to the contrary, though. Anyway, those are just some examples of combining. What is best for you and your sweet boy will emerge.


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