If you desire to give your children a true, classical Catholic education, you can do it. Don’t let anyone say otherwise. There has never been a time in history when the highest level of education was as accessible to so many families as it is today. It is, literally, a few mouse clicks away, available in the comfort of your own home. The opportunity to enter into these studies, however, is only the beginning–and to even have access to the beginning, we should be thankful.
Our goals in education are not based on results that our children will obtain. Our goals in education are based on principles that we wish to carry out as we serve God as Christian parents. Providing the best possible education is our job, not our children’s job. Our children will learn a bit here and bit there and, most importantly, they will become aware of where they can find Wisdom when they desire it in life. Most children will kick against the goads and fuss, because that’s natural. A few will embrace these studies and achieve great things, by the grace of God given to them. We, however, as parents and teachers, seek to give them as much as we can, fulfilling our duty to God.
One advantage experienced teachers and parents have over parents with young children, or parents getting started in homeschooling, is that they have a practical understanding of the time children have to learn; how they grow and change through the years; how they advance and regress and advance again. They have realistic, patient expectations. They understand what good education costs. They know fad and gimmicks when they see them. They know that education extends through many years, with many successes and failures along the way–and that this journey is what makes up their children’s Christian education. They teach their children to pray for God’s help. They warn their children of laziness and its consequences. They celebrate achievements with them. They forgive them and start over again. The continue with them as they enter adulthood and reap what they’ve sown. Each of our children will be found to be different, some will thrive, some will struggle. This is normal, and we work to lead them to the same Wisdom, at their own pace. Homeschooling allows us to do what schools cannot, and the family can offer the extended help and support that our children need as they sin and repent, and sin and repent.
With our goals set as they should be, on true, timeless, Christian education, we have to dig our heels in and commit to serve God. We must be willing to make every sacrifice necessary along the way. Think of St. Padre Pio’s father who, when his son expressed a desire to go to seminary, left Italy for America to work and send the money home to send his son to school. That’s sacrifice. Think of St. John Bosco’s mother, who being a widow, sent her son away to study when she hardly enough food to eat. The education of these famous men was only possible because of the sacrifice of loving, Christian parents. Christian education is an act of love, which is rarely ever appreciated by our children, just as God’s love for us is rarely appreciated by us. Yet, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” It is this sacrifice in our children’s early years that, by the grace of God, they come to appreciate when they are older; the cause of their love and respect for their old parents. To have this love, we must love first–and that means sacrifice.
To sacrifice for one moment would not be very difficult. This work, however, is long and requires that we persevere in loving our children. This sacrifice needed for Christian parenting and education doesn’t last a few years, or even until our children turn 18, but for our children’s entire lives–as long as the Lord allows us to love them. For us to serve God as Christian parents, we must not only sacrifice, but persevere in our sacrifice until the end. Think of St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, who prayed and wept and continued calling her son to repentance well into his adulthood. Then, read his famous Confessions and hear his testimony of his mother’s love and patience, without which the Church would not have had one of its greatest teachers. We must persevere.
Many Christian parents, unfortunately, think that their children’s struggles are signs of their failures as parents, but this is irrelevant. What is past is past, and only the present is in our control. Anyone who understands human nature and the way of salvation understands that every individual has his own will and makes his own decisions in life, many of which are unwise. Anyone who learns his Christianity from the Gospels knows that the prodigal son’s sin was only temporary, and that his good gather had the joy of receiving him back home, repentant, at last. This life of sacrifice and perseverance is true Christianity and any other path will prove to be a lie.
In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, I hope that you know that we work with you as parents and teachers, and that we experience all of the struggles and challenges you do. We don’t place unrealistic expectations or timelines on your children’s studies. We seek to help in every way we can, and I can assure you that the parents here are experiencing the same things you are–maybe not in every detail, but the principle is shared by all.
What is most important is that you understand your duty as parents and that you pray and work to fulfill them, living with a good conscience. Be sure that you are taking time for prayer and Bible reading every day. St. Paul said of the Scriptures, “Whatsoever things were written in the past were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” In the Scriptures, you read of people who lived the life you’re living, with all of its mess and difficulties. You can read about the patriarch Isaac who had twin sons–one was a good man, one was bad. You can read about David who had one son who was a wicked fool, and another who was the wisest man in the ancient world. You can read about Our Lord who had one disciple, Peter, suffer crucifixion for him, and another, Judas, sell Him out for $200. These stories are true history, and they offer us comfort as we persevere in obedience to God’s will.
Don’t allow the sins of others to discourage you, but maintain your peace and focus on what is in your control, what you are responsible for before God. You will be judged for your faithfulness, not the unfaithfulness of others. You are the light of the world, and the salt of the earth, and all that you feel and experience is normal Christian experience. When you sin and fail, or just run out of gas and lose control, you can be sure that “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) If Our Lord was overwhelmed and exhausted by the difficulties of His own life in this world, we must not be afraid of them. They are normal and necessary. That sacrifice and perseverance is what it means to love.
If you need help or advice or encourage, please make use of the communication tools available. Get on the Family Forum and chat with other parents. Get on live chat and chat with me. We all have our good days and bad days, but God allows them to happen at different times and we’re all able to help eachother continue. This is how the Church works, and we need one another.
If you’re in this battle, praise God for it. The lost don’t have these trials and difficulties. We have them because we Christ’s disciples and we are following Him as we should. That we even have the opportunity to offer our children a classical Christian education is an amazing gift that other generations would have given anything for. Now, we have to do our part, offering to God the sacrifice and perseverance that He deserves from us–our reasonable service. And remember that our children will love us when the day comes when they understand how we have loved them and then, by God’s grace, they may look beyond our imperfect love and see how God has perfectly loved them and love Him, which is eternal life. That’s all that matters.
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the National Association of Scholars. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening, and running.