“The loveliest masterpiece of the Heart of God is the heart of a mother.”
– St. Therese of Lisieux
After having eight babies in 13 years and homeschooling for a good 10, I am convinced that even world-class jugglers can’t hold a candle to homeschooling mamas. Catch this screenshot (in words) of a typical homeschooling day at Mrs. Jones’ domestic church at about 9:35 a.m. Mrs. Jones stumbles down the stairs, hair frazzled into the shape of a disoriented “Q” after being up half the night nursing her sweet-smelling baby.
Taking a deep breath, she enters the kitchen confidently, trusting that all of the hours upon hours they have spent memorizing the Baltimore Catechism must have had a positive effect on her darling children. Score! Indeed, the Catechism seems to have rubbed off on one of the children, seen studying that morning attentively.
Mom dives for the coffee while taking an anxious sneak peak out of the window to make sure that the neighbor’s cows aren’t heading for her asparagus garden, and beginning to bellow out the Pater Noster, the prayer the kids are supposed to say before starting their schoolwork. Half way in, the phone rings (it was left on the loudest setting, so everyone covers their ears), the baby starts wailing upstairs, and the UPS man heaves two gargantuan boxes from Costco onto the porch.
Before darting upstairs to console her precious little bundle, Mom orders the kids to finish the prayer and get to their school to-do lists or else, pulls up a YouTube music video called, Mozart for Making Magnificent Minds More Marvelous, and swipes up seven battered-looking items from the floor (perhaps they used to be toys?). It is now 9:50.
It is simply amazing what can happen in 15 minutes in a homeschooling family! Once mom is finally able to sit down and start nursing the baby, a deeply moving tranquility washes over her, for about nineteen glorious seconds. It is absolutely invigorating, and reminds mom what raising and educating her children is really all about in the end – no matter how wild it can get. It is all about living for her children and loving them all the way to Heaven. As St. Zelie Martin once wrote:
“When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven.” [i]
Somehow, someway, the thought of educating for eternity seems to set mom at ease. Even though it may feel very complicated, it is actually quite simple: God gives parents kids, the parents teach the kids about God, and then they give the kids up so they can live their lives for God. As Fr. Joseph Duhr, S.J., writes in Educating A Child: The Art of Arts, Vol.1:
“To raise a child is to get him to attain his stature of man and son of God; it is to raise him above the level of animal to the level of man – even more, to the level of Christ, to that of Heaven, and to that of God.” [ii]
Ultimately, if we homeschooling mothers can just realize that all that matters in the end is that we and our children spend eternal life with our Creator, in whom we live and move and have our being, our little crosses may be transformed into little joys, and our tears into smiles. To put it all more eloquently, as Fr. Joseph Duhr continues:
“We can, therefore, define education as the science (set of theoretical principles) and the art (set of practical techniques) which grant the child not only the possibility, but the facility of ‘becoming himself,’ by developing his entire being from its current embryonic state in such a way that, having reached adulthood, he may live his life to the full and in all its beauty in the splendid blossoming of his personality for the happiness of others and the glory of God, his Master and Creator. A great and noble task indeed! In fact, there is no more important or more essential one.” [iii]
Ultimately, homeschooling is all about love, and love has a way of being truly victorious over the empire of darkness. When discouragement begins to haunt us, we need only remember to love. At the end of a tough homeschooling day, where the schoolwork just didn’t seem to get done, we can feel at peace if we have at least loved our children the best we could.
Homeschooling is a matter of the heart, and the fabulous news is that God has given us mothers magnanimous hearts, which makes teaching our children come quite naturally to us. And God’s love enables a person to do the greatest of deeds, and such is homeschooling. For as St. John Chrysostom once proclaimed:
“What can be greater, than directing souls and forming children in virtue? Molding souls (fingere animos) is the art of arts, more excellent than that of the painter or the sculptor.” [iv]
This in mind, let us embrace the words of St. Therese of Lisieux who once said, “Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon Heaven, the only one goal of our labors.”
[i] The Story of A Family, TAN Books, 1994, p. 48.
[ii] Ibid., p. 18.
[iii] Te Deum Press, 2019, p. 19.
[iv] In Matth., XVIII, Homily 59.