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Today is Friday, June 18. And on my walk today, I’m going to answer a question that my wife asked me to talk about. Question that she’s received a number of times this week from other homeschooling mothers, and which she’d also like to think about. And the question is, what should homeschooling mothers study? What should homeschooling mothers study? The reason why it’s worth answering this question and talking about is because when we’re dealing with homeschooling, it’s normally the mothers who are responsible for the day to day management of the children’s academic work. And so, it’s reasonable for us to consider that a mother who is challenged with the day to day work of managing the homeschool doesn’t want to work in the dark as it were following lesson tasks and instructions that she may not really understand or appreciate. And so it’s important for mothers to be able to develop their own intellectual life while they lead their children through their homeschool studies, but also so that they can more effectively help their children in their homeschool studies. So let’s talk about what homeschool mothers should study. First of all, I believe the most important thing that homeschool mothers need to focus on and appreciate and respect is the content of daily Catholic devotions. Whatever these may be, and there are a number of different options that mothers can choose from, based on their circumstances and their own spiritual interests as it were. But the work of homeschooling is a daily grind. And the success of homeschooling depends on the regularity, or the consistency of have a mother’s life and work. For homeschooling to be successful. homeschooling mothers need to be consistent in their daily life. They need to be steady. They can’t be up and down, day by day, living on an emotional roller coaster. The work and the challenges are very real. The mothers are going to need to be patient. They’re going to need to be humble. And most of all in this they’re going to need to be consistent. And that’s why I believe that the first concern for what mothers should study would be the content of their daily devotion to be careful to try and keep a daily devotion. I think a good place to start. If a mother is asking, Well, what should I do for my daily devotions rather than just do my own will or set a goal that’s not realistic, not pretty. And in my circumstances, what should I do? How can I figure out what to do? The first thing I’d recommend reading is St. Francis to sales book on the introduction to the devout life. It’s important to note that, unlike many other saints, St. Francis de Sales is one of the doctors of the Catholic Church. He’s an authoritative teacher, approved and recommended to all Christians. In all ages, there are some saints whose ideas and teaching is limited to its own original context, and doesn’t necessarily apply to all Christians in all places and times. But the writings of the doctors of the church is to be considered universal. And St. Francis De Sales is one such Teacher and Author. And so if there was a book that I think Catholic homeschooling mothers should definitely start with. It would be St. Francis de Sales book, on the introduction to the devout life. The reason why I recommend this book is because I think women, and I’m just saying women, because the topic of this talk is what homeschool mothers should study, I think women will be surprised by the practical advice given by St. Francis to sales. And by the simplicity of his advice, he doesn’t set ridiculous goals. He doesn’t puff people up with ideas that they’re really not going to be able to maintain. He understands the challenges of the life of the laity. And he gives counsel that’s responsible, that’s realistic, that’s balanced. When I first became a Catholic, I was sort of let down by that book because I was hoping to be challenged and called to all of these heroic acts of devotion and virtue. And instead, I found a very simple and practical book of recommendations for how to be truly holy. And we have to be careful. Mothers, especially that anytime we ask a question about devotional life or spiritual discipline, we remember that our vocation is fixed. We’ve already chosen our vocation. God in His providence has already appointed our vocation. And we’re to seek God through that vocation not apart from that vocation, not in spite of that vocation. And so, homeschooling mothers who are also Catholic wives, need to seek God through their vocation. But the reason why I say homeschooling mothers should begin with their devotional life, their spiritual life, their own personal life of prayer, is because the work that they have to do is going to be very challenging, overwhelming, humanly impossible. provoking and they’re going to have to have some source of peace and joy outside of themselves, outside of their children outside of their husbands. That allows them to enjoy an every day, quiet, tranquility and consistency that allows them to carry out the day to day work of their vocation. So I’d recommend St. Francis to sales as a spiritual director in this regard that he can counsel, women and men, on how they can pursue holiness and devotion within the context of their married and secular state of life. It’s easy for us to watch st movies and say Oh, I’d like to be like St. Teresa of Avila, or Oh, I’d like to be like St. Bernadette or some other famous saint. But we have to realize that their lives and the actions they took in the disciplines they took were taken outside of the marriage state. And as I said, our vote, we need to serve God and seek God in and through our state of life. So that’s recommendation number one. And from that daily, consistent devotion that’s that’s realistic and practicable, can be established and can provide mothers with not only spiritual insight, whether it’s from Sacred Scripture or from a prayer book, or some other source, recitation of the rosary and meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary. The consistency of a daily devotional life is going to be very important for a homeschooling mother. So that’s number one. Secondly, of course, the sacred scriptures. Sacred Scripture. If you read the lives of the saints, if you read the writings of the church fathers, if you’re familiar with them, one thing you’ll know is that they all loved Sacred Scripture. It’s uncommon among Catholics to find women or men who read the scriptures regularly and personally. But one thing we’ll see among all the saints is that they they chose Sacred Scripture as their primary source of spiritual reading. And the Scriptures tell us that everything that was written in Sacred Scripture was written for our comfort. And you’ll find that the scriptures as you read them, and make them your own, provide for every experience that you go through every challenge that you face every provocation that you have to deal with. As a homeschooling mother. You’ll find wisdom, good examples, and comfort from Sacred Scripture. And you need to allow that knowledge to develop by regular reading, and what I recommend is that you use the daily scripture reading program in the classical Liberal Arts Academy and read the scriptures to your children daily as part of their homeschool curriculum. But when you read it, don’t merely Read It For their sake. But pay attention yourself and enjoy the study of Scripture and establish between you and your children. A common spiritual authority in your family life to whom or to which everyone is accountable. So by teaching your children Sacred Scripture, reading the scriptures daily, you can gain great comfort and spiritual direction from the most authoritative source of all, which is the word of God. So I would definitely recommend cultivating a regular reading and meditation on Sacred Scripture. As for the actual academic work that your children are going to be doing, a lot of it is going to be presented in a way that’s good for children. But that wouldn’t be appropriate for an adult. And let me explain that. When we teach children, we’re treasuring up within them knowledge that is going to be useful to them in the future. We understand that a child may grow up, may fall away from the faith, maybe lukewarm at times or disinterested in religion, especially as he enters early adulthood and has the whole world spinning around him. And he has to deal with independence, and freedom for the first time and figure himself out in the world. Children are going to fall away from the faith for a time, go through dark periods of their lives. And in the Scriptures, we have the example of the prodigal son, and many other examples. But when we’re teaching children, we’re anticipating those dark days. And we’re using the faculty of reason and memorization. To store up within them knowledge that will help them in the future. A good illustration of this is in the Lord of the Rings, if you’ve watched Lord of the Rings, I don’t know this story too well, as well as my children do, for example, but there’s a part of the story where I think she’s an elf. Maybe I’m wrong. I think her name is Galadriel. And she gives a light to Frodo. And she gives him that light not to use presently. But for some dark time to come. And Frodo receives this gift, this magical light as it were. And he he wears it and carries it with him. And day to day, he may not even think about it. But finally the time comes and it’s in the cave with the spider. And it’s there in that moment, that dark time that he remembers about that light. And he grabs it, and he uses it to help him resist that spider in the dark cave. What we teach children. That’s basically what we’re doing. We’re teaching them things that they don’t appreciate that they can’t appreciate that they won’t appreciate until the dark times come. And when those dark times come, then they’re going to have this light to draw upon to lead them out of that darkness and back to safety. And that’s the normal process or pattern of life for children raised in Christian homes, who often fall away from the devotion and faith of their parents as they move out into the world as young adults. Now, why that’s important is because if an adult is coming and asking what he or she should study as an adult, things are very different. The adult is already through many of those dark times and is looking for wisdom and counsel for immediate use. During the active years of their adult lives, they’re looking for parenting advice to put to work immediately. They’re looking for business insights to use today They’re not simply storing up general principles of wisdom and religion for future dark times, although they’re also doing that, but they’re seeking present help from their studies. And so the the actual subjects to be studied and the methods of study are different for adults and children. So I wouldn’t advise, I wouldn’t advise homeschooling mothers to study what their children are studying or study how their children are advised to study, they should study subjects appropriate for adults. And they should study using methods that are appropriate for adults. So for example, I would never advise a homeschooling mother to try to study classical languages. that opportunity has really been missed, and the amount of time and effort it would take to teach oneself classical languages would not be reason would not be reasonable. With so much other work to be done. If a mother wants to understand classical languages, I think the best thing for her to do would be to patiently help her older children in their studies. And then as each younger child comes along, be more expert in those studies, one layer at a time as it were, but I wouldn’t waste the time trying to master the classical languages. upfront, I would realize that the best plan is just to try and help each child as much as possible, one by one. And plus, there are more important studies that have immediate use for homeschooling mothers that I think are much more valuable. So we’ve talked about establishing devotional practices, which supply us with spiritual readings in a consistent daily way. We’ve talked about studying Sacred Scripture, and we’ve talked about studying with the children patiently seeking to help them as much as possible and understanding that homeschooling is a long period of time a long work. homeschooling is not achieved by rousing up your spirit one day for some great battle. It’s a work that’s done little by little bit by bit drip by drip over years of time. That’s why the the disposition of a homeschooling mother really requires a consistent, patient, spirit. So what would the next valuable study be? And I’m going to talk about studies that are personally edifying, personally edifying and helpful. The next study I’d recommend, and I don’t mean this in some sort of arrogant or vain way, but I recommend the book that I wrote for homeschooling parents, titled understanding classical Catholic education. I think if you either download a copy of that book on your phone, you can get a free copy on the website if you download a copy of that book and keep it on your phone. Or if you order a printed copy and just keep it on the coffee table or next to your bed and flip through it. When time allows, whether you use it as a reference book or read it from front to back that book was originally written for homeschooling parents Who I taught in a course when I first started the classical Liberal Arts Academy, and it was for this very purpose I, I wrote those chapters as lessons. Because parents had no idea what I was doing or teaching in the classical Liberal Arts Academy. They all wanted to learn and understand, but they had no frame of reference. And they wanted to be able to lead their children and understand what they were doing. And I put those lessons together one by one, for those first parents, who started with me in the classical Liberal Arts Academy, and they’re written in very simple language, very practically, with the intent of helping homeschooling parents understand the history and the principles of the classical liberal arts curriculum that they’re going to be giving to their children. And so, again, I don’t mean to recommend that book in some sort of self promoting way. I’m simply saying that that book was intended for this very purpose of helping homeschooling mothers understand the curriculum, so that they can better help their children. And that’s why I’d recommend it. And as I said, you can get a copy of that book, in PDF form, to just download and keep on a phone, or a tablet, from the academy website, you don’t need to buy anything. So that would probably be my third recommendation. And the most practical recommendation. Outside of that, recommendations, would really depend on what you’re interested in are concerned about what your background is, what your weaknesses are, where you feel like you need the most help. One of the most helpful spiritual sources, which I recently convinced my wife to study, are the conferences of john kassian. These are writings of an early Christian who walked about through the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, found holy men who lived as hermits in the desert, and interviewed them and asked them for spiritual advice for practical advice on the spiritual life, and these hermits answer, john Cassius questions and he records their discussions in his conferences. It’s very, very practical spiritual advice that I believe is helpful for all Catholics. And it addresses questions and issues that we all struggle with. But that really require extremely holy and wise men to answer and help us with, it’s not the kind of stuff that the popular YouTube personality or conference speaker, or self published author can address. It’s deeper stuff, the stuff that really drives our private spiritual lives, our struggles, spiritually, the challenges we face within our souls. So I’d recommend the conferences of john kassian, which I always recommend to men as well. I wouldn’t recommend them to women. But as I said, my own wife has really enjoyed them. And my wife isn’t intellectual in the sense that she would enjoy something that was intellectually dense or challenging. And I think her appreciation of them shows that while they treat, profound questions, they do so in a very simple manner. That makes them easy to read, because after all, you’re normally going to be reading when you get a break from the children or when the children are in bed. And the reading that you do, can’t be can’t require too much intellectual effort because you’re usually Studying at a time when you’re already quite exhausted. So I’d recommend Colossians conferences. If you’re concerned about managing your household and practical matters in the house, like scheduling, or meals, clothing, food and drink. And these kinds of things practical everyday mother and wife, homemaking concerns, I’d recommend you read rule of Saint Benedict. I recommend your route, you read the rule of Saint Benedict, but think about how his teaching on the principles of the Christian life and their application in a monastery could apply to your own home and help you to order your home according to Christian principles. Often what Christian women are doing, when it comes to practical household stuff is what they see their neighbors doing what other women in the neighborhood are doing, what the popular websites and magazines recommend, what’s going around on social media, what their mothers did, and so on. And mothers also often want to break from those customs and say, No, no, I, I really want to create a household and culture in the home. That’s pure and Christian. That’s, that’s thoughtful and purposeful. And that has a Christian source. And a great source for that kind of cultural thinking, would be the rule of Saint Benedict. And remember that rule was written and intended not only for monks, but also for nuns living in convents. So I’d recommend the rule of Saint Benedict to help you with thinking about your household, your family life, the day to day, culture, and the ways that things are done practically what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, how the home is organized, and so on. Read the rule of Saint Benedict. And think about how the principles that he raises and uses to direct the organization of the monastery, apply to your own home. I think if you read the rule of Saint Benedict, you’ll be surprised how useful how practical it is. So I’d recommend that if you’d like to become familiar with more classical readings, I wouldn’t recommend literature I would recommend Well, the first thing that I would recommend would be the moral epistles of Seneca moral epistles of Seneca The reason why I recommend them first of all, Seneca was a Roman stoic philosopher. He lived at the time of the apostles. He’s believed in tradition to have actually converted to Christianity. And he’s referred to as an illustrious man, almost as a saint by St. Jerome. Seneca was a stoic who wrote moral epistles or letters that taught morals. And these are, these are short letters that he wrote, to teach us how to think and how to behave morally from a philosophical point of view rather than from a religious point of view. One of the benefits of studying philosophy, ancient philosophy rather than religion. Is that in religion when morals are taught, Christian standards of morality require grace in the people who are being taught understanding the moral teaching requires faith. carrying out the moral teaching requires grace. And in philosophy, it’s different in philosophy. Philosophers don’t pursue Christian standards and they don’t teach in a way that requires faith in philosophy. moral behavior is aimed at human standards, what’s possible and reasonable for men and the arguments and explanations are based on reason. Not on faith. The law philosophers can be very blunt. They’re not concerned about offending people. They’re not concerned about political or financial consequences of their teaching. They’re very straightforward and honest, and they give very, very helpful advice. Very practical, reasonable explanations, no religious talk. And they’re very helpful. I think many Christians struggle because they’re trying to follow religious instruction before they’ve ever had the opportunity to learn philosophical instruction, which I think is easier for us to begin with. So I’d recommend Senecas moral epistles now if you do want to get into classical literature, I don’t necessarily recommend epic poetry like Homer’s Iliad or Virgil’s Aeneid or Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are simpler things to read than maybe more enjoyable if you’re looking just for a good use of some leisure time. And you don’t need to read 24 books of the Iliad or 12 books of the Aeneid. something simpler. One thing I’d recommend are the Greek plays. Greek plays are much shorter than the epic works the epic poems, and they’re very enjoyable. The first one I’d recommend would be Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, a very famous story you’ve probably already heard it. You’ll recognize the story when you read it, but it’s a good place to get started in classical literature to read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles to read Medea, by your remedies to read Agamemnon by Aesculus. Those are three excellent Greek plays that will allow you to enjoy some leisurely classical reading without the volume of the epic poems. Another enjoyable book you might be interested in, if you if you’re looking for classical literature, to read and in leisure hours would be all vids metamorphosis. aavid Ovie ID, and the title of the book is metamorphosis. Orbitz, metamorphosis is the source of most of classical mythology. It’s been famous all throughout Christian history. And there’s a way to understand these myths allegorically, which we can talk about some other time, which is how Christians have always used them. But of its metamorphosis as a very enjoyable work, a poem that’s available in English translation teaching, the classical myths that would give you plenty to work on with classical literature. Now, if you’re interested in some medieval stuff, Catholic medieval writings. I recommend that you learn how to use the Summa theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas. It may be intimidating when you first look at it. But once you understand the order, the way that it’s organized, and you start to see how it works, you can use the Summa as a reference book, even though that’s not how I would recommend to study it for mastery. Talking as a homeschooling mother seeking to become familiar with some medieval writing, I would recommend that you simply go through the table of contents, and find some topics that you’re interested in, and then look them up and read them. And see what St. Thomas has to say. There may be some things in there that refer to philosophical ideas that you’re not familiar with, but you can ignore that and just focus on the questions that St. Thomas asks, and his answer to them. The questions that he asks are usually yes or no questions. And what you should be interested in is simply learning what his answer is yes or no. You’ll find yourself often surprised by some of his answers, because modern Christians assume that they have everything figured out, because they don’t get challenged. But you’ll find yourself at times challenged by St. Thomas’s opinions and remember, like St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas is a doctor of the church. He’s an approved authority, whose writings are recommended for all Christians in all places at all times. So check out the Summa theologica. It’s not too difficult. I’d recommend you become familiar with Shakespeare, as a source of family leisure. You know, if you and your husband have a free night and you’d like to watch a movie, instead of modern stuff, you can find the works of Shakespeare performed by some of the best actors who’ve ever lived. Like sir Laurence Olivier plays all different roles in all different plays. These are all easily accessible on YouTube or Amazon Prime, I’d recommend that you seek to simply become familiar with the stories because your children may study them one day. And if you’re even familiar with the characters and the plots, of the stories of the plays of Shakespeare, you’ll be very helpful to them. So I’d recommend Shakespeare’s plays. There’s also a lot of mystery surrounding Shakespeare, some believe that he was an undercover Catholic living in Protestant England. And some teach that his plays actually communicate Catholic values and teachings in subtle ways. Some believe that his plays were influenced by the Jesuits, who are hiding throughout England. And the Jesuits, worked with Shakespeare to use his plays to, to teach Catholic ideas in English society. So there’s a lot of value in the study of Shakespeare, and you don’t necessarily have to read it. You can watch performances of the plays of Shakespeare. The children might not like them, because you have to pay attention to them. You have to pay attention to the words you have to follow the stories. So sometimes children won’t necessarily thoroughly enjoy Shakespeare. But as I said, if if you have a free night worth, you and your husband have a night and you’d like to watch something, after the kids have gone to bed, you can make more fruitful use of that time than watching just the normal, popular junk, you can dig up some historical performances of Shakespeare’s plays and many other historical films, that historical characters and historical periods or historical events make good use of that downtime, that quiet time when you just want to put your feet up and relax, but at the same time, make good use of the time you have. I could recommend hundreds of films that either teach classical works or teach classical on ancient history so if you’d like some recommendations, just let me know. That’s the kind of stuff my wife and I like to watch and our children enjoy as well. So that’s a pretty heavy set of recommendations, starting from your own personal devotional life, with some help from St. Francis to sales, to the daily reading of Sacred Scripture and becoming familiar with the scripture so that you can enjoy all of the benefits that the scriptures offer to those who become familiar with them. I recommended the writings of john kassian, I recommended my own book on the classical Catholic curriculum, I recommended the conferences of john kassian. For some spiritual reading, I recommended the rule of Saint Benedict, for some Christian insight into developing culture, in the practical affairs of your home. I talked about getting started with some moral philosophy, reading the moral epistles of Seneca the plays of the ancient Greek playwrights which are available in English translation, of course, of its metamorphosis, which is our source for much of classical mythology. The works of Shakespeare, the writings of St. Thomas in the Summa theologica that will probably provide you with a lifetime of rich, classical Catholic reading. And you’ll notice that I haven’t been too focused on readings that are specific to homeschooling. Because I think that too much emphasis can be put on the methods. There’s really not too much to learn it’s really a matter of doing it, rather than constantly thinking about it, constantly reorganizing it constantly judging yourself and your children and thinking that you need to change things. The work of homeschooling really doesn’t require that much thinking as far as the content or the methods are concerned. The real challenge as a homeschooling mother is just going to be living and acting as that pendulum. Keeping order, maintaining routine, giving your children the opportunity, by a regular routine of study and prayer and work. Giving your children the opportunity to achieve great things little by little over a long period of time. That’s the real challenge of homeschooling there. There are many women who and you can see this if you go on social media. There are many women who can have great days and you’ll see the photos and videos of their great days on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. But the great days are very quickly erased and undermined by extreme bad days. And the image of that great homeschool mom the great homeschool. Like I said you’ll notice that books are new children are young. Rooms are freshly painted furniture is new. These are snapshots taken before the work is done. And you’ll rarely see the after photos that show what happened in that homeschool what the final results were. Those first great days are often very misrepresenting of the actual homeschool experience of those children, of those mothers and so on. The mothers I have always found who are doing the most and the best work in homeschooling are the ones who aren’t visible on social media because they’re working They’re not the ones who are gabbing. They’re not the ones who are telling people what to do. They’re not the ones trying to trying to be homeschool gurus all over the internet. They’re the ones who are with their children. They’re the ones who are actually reading and praying and working, keeping the house in order, enjoying good relationship with their husbands. Participating in the sacramental life, those ladies don’t have much time. For the staged photos, all over social media. My wife is an example of this. She’s invisible most of the year, she may come out in the summer when it’s time to garden and she takes some time to snap some pictures of the kids. But for most of the year, she’s busy working. She’s got a full day. And if she’s not to bed at a certain time and up at a certain time, and on top of things, it just gets out of hand very quickly. And it’s very hard to make progress once the kids get disorganized, and things get crazy. So don’t be deceived by the images of the great days. posted by the homeschool moms. If you can find a homeschool mom, who was able to show you the real results. Good, healthy, happy adult children. Those are the women you should be seeking practical advice from not the Instagram moms posting the videos of their curriculum unboxing for the new homeschool room after it’s been decorated. That’s cute. But this work of homeschooling is a real war that needs to be carried out, day by day, every day, all day year round for all of the years of your children’s lives while they’re at home. And under your influence. You’ve also got a marriage to take care of. You’ve also got yourself your own health and spiritual life to take care of. And all of the things that come up and distract pregnancies, nursing, taking care of sick children, helping with family business in some circumstances, relatives and neighbors you know all of the distractions and the greatest challenge for the homeschool mother is maintaining that consistent, steady, patient, quietly working disposition that really is responsible for all of the order of the homeschool and all of the production. Over time of the homeschool your children are not going to race through any subjects or courses, they’re going to move through them step by step, drip by drip Little by little, my wife used to say little by little bit by bit. That’s how work gets done. And that’s really how homeschool work gets done. And that’s the that’s the real challenge for a homeschooling mother who wants to lead her children to accomplish great things, not in a week, not one day, not one year. But over the course of 17, 18, 20 years. Having steady, solid sound instruction from a mother who’s a living example of everything that the children need to grow up to be. So there’s plenty to study. Let’s consider that first wave of recommendations. If there are specific concerns you have like I said, as I went through those readings, I said, if you’re concerned about this, or if you’re interested in this, then I’d recommend this or that if there are some other issues or some other areas that that I didn’t talk about. And you’d like some recommendations for some other things. Or if you get through these readings or if you’ve already read these works, and you’d like to move to let’s say level two in recommended readings for homeschool mother, get in touch and I’ll either record a part two To have this discussion are all just provide you with some recommendations as you request them. I hope that’s helpful. If you need any help finding these resources or you have any questions as you read them. Feel free to contact me any time or asked my wife if you chat with her during the course of the week in your homeschooling meetings, and we’ll continue these discussions and move on. I hope that that helps you as a homeschooling mother. I hope you hear from me how much I appreciate the work that homeschool mothers do, how dependent the restoration of classical Catholic education is, on the virtue and work of homeschooling mothers. It’s not going to happen if mothers can’t get their spirits and minds right can’t get their lives ordered their priorities ordered and commit to working steadily and patiently for a long time as their children grow up at home. I hope that’s helpful.
God bless your studies,
William C. Michael
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