With summer losing its sizzle, a fresh new school year will be starting soon. And many parents are scrambling to find alternative options for their children's educational needs.
If the last year has taught us anything, it's that parents and their children are resilient. We took on so many new challenges — challenges that changed life as we knew it. Many are wondering, "What's next?" COVID certainly isn't going anywhere, and with new strains being discovered as soon as the old ones lose ratings, we're told we should be afraid.
Might I suggest something else?
As Catholics, we're called to live a life free from fear. That doesn't always mean we're all armored up and battle-ready, but why not? We're told there's nothing new under the sun and that we shouldn't fear. So why is it that countless Catholics are facing this coming school year with trepidation?
With the mask mandates lifted in many places, at least for the moment, and so many outlets claiming that we are only allowed to participate in society under a "new normal," you'd think we'd all feel better. But we don't. It's kind of like that feeling when you're waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you. Just when you think everything is fine, that's when it happens — you're left sprawled on the floor questioning your life decisions.
The new school year shouldn't be like that. Fall is a time filled with change and growth and reflection. For so many families, that's not the case. There is another way though, one less traveled. And although many parents last year thought they were on this path, they weren't.
I'm talking about homeschooling.
Last year, children were thrown out of the public education system without much warning. They were forced into Zoom meetings and other online conferences. Parents were forced to bring public school into their homes and backseat-teach as if they were assistants to the teachers via the internet. This is not homeschooling. This was public school at home.
Public school at home is extremely difficult. It entails all of the work of regular school and none of the rewards of homeschool — so many parents were left begging the government to take their children back. From the math-problem tears to the tantrums of being torn from a factory-setting schedule, all signs pointed to the fact the children weren't used to being home. It's no wonder the family structure quickly turned to chaos.
Consider the alternative though. Imagine a fall where your children continue enjoying life, as they do in the summer. Imagine being in control of your child's education and not having to answer to teachers who have their own biases and agendas: No Zoom meetings unless you want them, no fear of mask mandates, no worry of what your children are actually being taught.
What's holding you back? Fear of failure? Fear of the unknown? Fear that it will look exactly like it did when you brought them home last year?
It won't, unless you want it to.
This fall, I challenge you to live a school year that's beautiful. I challenge you to take these wonderful little people into your arms and read to them, play with them and teach them. Allow your home to be more than the place that you come back to after a long day away and sleep. Turn your kitchen table into a craft zone, a science lab, a place where you gather and enjoy each other's company. Make your home the domestic church that it's supposed to be.
Talk to your children. Learn from them. What are they interested in? What is something you learned that you thought was amazing and would love to teach them? There is no limitation to their imaginations, and if you take the time to be present, you'll be able to share in their discovery.
The Lord gave us our children, and He doesn't make mistakes. He entrusted them to us, but we're the ones who will be held accountable for their upbringing. We are responsible for their education and their formation. If we are delegating this task to complete strangers in a corrupt system that hasn't produced results we deem satisfactory, how can we expect good future results for our children?
Many parents love to use the line, "Well, my school system is different." The truth is most parents wouldn't send their children off to these indoctrination stations if they truly didn't believe that theirs was the diamond in the rough. But is it? Really?
Times have been a-changin', and the changes aren't for the good. We've seen what public school produces, and many of us want a refund. It doesn't take much for us to see the seeds we've sown. Unless we take our mission seriously, our world will only fall further. Sadly, it's our children who will be the ones left to pay the price of our indecision and/or failure to act.
There are so many resources out there for new homeschooling parents and so many different options for different teaching styles. One of the greatest features about being in charge of your child's education is that you can explore so many different ways to teach. You aren't held by the government's standard one-size-fits-all law. Your child, being taught at home, has the freedom to learn and explore at his own pace, with no threat of "falling behind" or having to stay in a class that bores him because he's learned all that could be taught.
I pray this new season will be a fantastic one for you and yours. I pray we will all live lives of great courage and never miss an opportunity to take back what belongs to us: our freedoms, our Church, our children.