They are always listening…even when we think they are not: A love-letter to my homeschool mama friends

Dear Homeschool Mama friends,

This letter is to thank you. You were the ones who taught me just how critical it was to be the primary educator of my children, even if I did send them to public school. You taught me these lessons before I even had children of my own. And once I did have those children, you continued to inspire me forward in this endeavor. Your encouragement helped me through some very rough patches for which I am grateful.

If I can have one complaint though, it is that you spoiled me. You gave me the unrealistic expectation that most parents know and understand this whole, “parents are the primary educators” thing and take it seriously. As seriously as you do, as I do.

And so my adventure into teaching Faith Formation has been an awakening. An awakening to the reality that a lot of parents do the bare minimum. Or nothing at all. That when you throw a bunch of Catholic kids together in a room, you will get a variety of levels of formation from expert to less than zero. Some of it is ignorance on the parental level willful or otherwise. Some are like my mom was and I was, products of our own crazy not-exactly-great formation. And for many (like my mom and myself) our parents were truly doing the best they could with what they had. And I’d like to think that by bringing their kids to my class (and their other children to the other classes) they are already doing better than what they had.

And especially for the ones who know and get this whole “primary educator” thing, I feel for them. I think a lot of the time, they feel like I do. Like we’re tilling in rocky or less than perfect soil. That we bring our kids to mass and faith formation and we do say the prayers at home and talk to and teach our children about the faith and what we believe, heck we even celebrate baptism days (in related news I actually found all three kids’ baptism candles) and patron saint feast days, but we are rowing upstream and the current is strong. Not just from public school but EVERYTHING. My kids tend to come off as very unplugged from anything not Nintendo nor Minecraft related even with technology contracts and limits. Sometimes I feel like I’m just throwing things at the wall hoping the stick.

Well, Mamas, I am here to thank you for your examples of perseverance and encouragement in my own. I heard it when I heard my son’s little voice in Liturgical training answer the DFF’s “The Lord be With You” with “And with your spirit.” And again later when he told me his class was learning about the Rosary and he offered, “When Mr Richard and Mrs Kathleen asked what we knew about the Rosary, I told them it was our most powerful weapon against the devil.” I taught him that. ME. When I thought he was ignoring me.

I should have known he and his brother listen as was evidenced by his first grade teacher telling me he was a star last year when he taught the entire lesson on John the Baptist whom we had talked about ONCE! This year she has his little brother and she can’t stop telling me about how much he knows. I smile but I want to ask, “when?! When did I teach him all this?! When was he actually listening to me?”

I have felt much the same way about my students. Do they listen? Do they care? Is this just a social hour for them? Is it all going in one ear and out the other because they go home and who knows if they tell their parents what I’ve taught or if their parents even like what I’ve taught.

Then last week at Liturgical Training, one of my students pointed over to a corner and said, “Mrs Kristen, is that the saint who had all the sisters who were nuns?! St Therese, I think her name is? She has a rose in front of her…” I wandered over to see the statue I had never noticed before (in my defense it only arrived this past winter) to ensure that it was, indeed St Therese. She was able to tell the DFF when she asked who it was. We had talked about St Therese two weeks before and the Little Way and the rose and…I thought she was playing and giggling with the little girl next to her, but she was listening.

I’m not just spewing words and prayers and church history at them, I’m teaching them. Both my children and my students. And they are absorbing it, by osmosis if they have to.

Mamas out there in the interwebs, whether you homeschool or are a semi-heathen like me who sacrifices her childrens’ academic learning to the public school system (because it truly is the lesser of two evils if the alternative is me teaching them–gulp!) or you send them to private or parochial school, take heart and find encouragment. YOU are the primary educator of your child, not any other teacher, and your child is learning valuable lessons from you whether they acknowledge it or not. You are training up children in the way they should go when you take them to mass, when you pray with them, teach them their faith through feast days or however you manage it in your home.

And thank you to my home-school mama friends who have told me this would happen and who prayed along with me that it would. You may have spoiled me by showing me the prize but you never stopped encouraging me in persisting to get it.