Sunday, December 02, 2007

Slightly Incoherent Ramblings on Homeschooling and "The World"

There's something that's been bouncing around in my head in regards to not sheltering my kids too much, though it's a little hard to explain. Bear with me, please. :) Civilized discussion and even disagreement is welcome. I suspect there are some worthwhile things to think about here (particularly in the quotations!), even if I can't quite connect the dots I'm trying to connect.

I think bits from the reading we happened to discuss last week from the Holy Father's Jesus of Nazareth might be a good place to start (although it's somewhat tangentially related). In his section on "Deliver Us from Evil" in a chapter reflecting on the Our Father, the Pope has this to say:

So long as the dragon cannot wrest God from you, your deepest being remains unharmed, even in the midst of all the evils that threaten you. Our translation is thus correct to say: "Deliver us from evil," with evil in the singular. Evils (plural) can be necessary for our purification, but evil (singular) destroys. This, then, is why we pray from the depths of our soul not to be robbed of our faith, which enables us to see God, which binds us with Christ. This is why we pray that, in our concern for goods, we may not lose the Good itself; that even faced with the loss of goods, we may not also lose the Good, which is God; that we ourselves may not be lost: Deliver us from evil!
Although there is a certain degree of looking inward that is necessary to families at times, it seems to me that homeschooling can lead to a unique danger of looking inward too much in a way that can stir up pettiness and concerns growing way out of proportion with their reality.

I think it's a little like protecting our babies and young children from illness. It is natural and good to take certain precautions to keep them healthy, and yet (somewhat paradoxically, I think) it turns out that a certain amount of exposure is good for them and makes them stronger while too much "sheltering" (so to speak) has negative consequences for their long-term health.

Here's a somewhat random quote I found on the Internet on the topic:

The age-old question of how far to go to protect a child from germs doesn't have one right answer. Repeated minor infections do build immunity to similar types of germs, but who wants young children to be constantly sick? Parents run the gamut on this one from not worrying at all to bringing Lysol to the supermarket and wiping down the shopping cart before their child is wheeled around.I think the practical solution is to recognize that many, many exposures are unavoidable. Toddlers are by nature into everything around them, dirt and germs included, and many viruses can be spread before the contagious person even comes down with any symptoms. So, I see those inevitable exposures as the immunity-building ones. Your best bet is to wash your child's hands frequently, and avoid obviously sick individuals whenever possible. Source

For our family, homeschooling makes it easier to "look outward" because we're doing it as a family and helping our children begin to understand how to live out their faith in charity to others and to begin to see that the Church has the answers to what troubles people in the world. How does one look outward? Sometimes it involves allowing the book-learning to be less-than-perfect in order to spend time on other important things - community involvement, Church activities, works of charity, etc. Many of these will provide opportunities to gain that wonderful thing called Perspective. Another aspect of this is books and movies that make us think and grow - especially those that require some sorting out and making distinctions... together. A side note on this: Most of the great literature deals to some extent with the consequences of sin and thus will, to some extent, have evil and offensive things in it.
There is little point in keeping children out of Hell if you don't afford them the means of getting into Heaven. So give them solid catechetics, strong preaching, good example, healthy exercise, supervision in a general and determinant way but not in each particular and by all means permitting them the freedom of the good, dangerous books as well as the dangerous games such as football, or mountain climbing. Given the state of man, some will break their necks and sin; but in good Catholic families with common sense, the falls should be few and the bodies and souls recoverable. (John Senior, The Restoration of Christian Culture)
This is a balance I'm aware of and seeking to achieve, but it's not always "there". The biggest pitfall for me is getting caught up in the little things that aren't really that important, but that can seem overwhelming at times. Funny how they seem so huge and overwhelming at the time and looking back (especially over time) they can often seem petty and silly... especially after a healthy dose of perspective.

And speaking of perspective, a little birdie told me that my friend Katrina is going to start blogging soon, hurray! Stay tuned.

Here are some quotes that seem to me related to the thoughts swirling around in my head:
The Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25: 14-30
Let me confess, however, that I have never read any of Father Brown except for a brief short story or two. I dislike mystery stories, however noble the art. To be sure, I have cited time without number Chesterton's remark that we should commit our murders all the time, but by writing about them, in mystery stories. This, after all, Plato's point: that knowledge of evil is not evil, but good. Chesterton was quite sure that one of the great arguments for being a Christian was that it enabled us to understand the real nature and depths of evil in ourselves and in the world. (Another Sort of Learning by Fr. James Schall).

And this brings me back to Chesterton - to the idea that before we are twenty we have learned the important things. We have learned them right or wrong, and we have learned them alone. "The tremendous examination of existence", as Chesterton called it, will not be based on whether we have been to college, but on whether we seriously, yet in good humor, confronted in our lives the highest things. St. Paul intimated, in a famous passage, that learning could easily deflect us into "foolishness", even if we be, perhaps especially if we be, professional philosophers (I Cor. 1:18-24) (Another Sort of Learning by Fr. James Schall)
With the petition "thy Kingdom come" (not "our kingdom"), the Lord wants to show us how to pray and order our action in just this way: The first and essential thing is a listening heart, so that God, not we, may reign. The Kingdom of God comes by way of a listening heart. That is its path. And that is what we must pray for again and again.

The encounter with Christ makes this petition even deeper and more concrete. We have seen that Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person. The Kingdom of God is present wherever he is present. By the same token, the request for a listening heart becomes a request for communion with Jesus Christ, the petition that we increasingly become "one" with him (Gal 3:28). What is requested in this petition is the true following of Christ, which becomes communion with him and makes us one body with him. Reinhold Schneider has expressed this powerfully: "The life of this Kingdom is Christ's continuing life in those who are his own. In the heart that is no longer nourished by the vital power of Christ, the Kingdom ends; in the heart that is touched and transformed by it, the Kingdom begins... The roots of the indestructible tree seek to penetrate into each heart. The Kingdom is one. It exists solely through the Lord who is its life, its strength, and its center" (Das Vaternunser, pp. 31f). To pray for the Kingdom of God is to say to Jesus: Let us be yours, Lord! Pervade us, live in us; gather scattered humanity in your body, so that in you everything may be subordinated to God and you can then hand over the universe to the Father, in order that "God may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28) (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth
Related link:

"A Christian Approach to Purity" by Mark Shea


Dana said...

Oh, this is probably a tangent, but I have related thoughts swirling around in my head, too.

I think it becomes a problem when we see homeschooling as the salvation of our children. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because we homeschool (along with x,y,z) that our children never will struggle with those temptations. Or that sheltering someone from sin will help them overcome it.

Are we homeschooling to protect from the world or prepare for it? I have seen some where I'd say the former is definitely the goal and they seem like they are building a fortress around their children that may hinder their ability to be effective witnesses later. (I don't just makes me wonder, too!)

But I think we need to prepare them. Which means teaching sound doctrine and nourishing a love for Christ and His Word...and then trusting. Children need to be given opportunity to fail while at home, I think, rather than waiting until they move out. My daughter recently had a situation with a friend that made her uncomfortable, but in the end she did what was right...which has earned her more trust.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Principled Discovery

nutmeg said...

I agree with you whole-heartedly, Alicia... why don't you live closer?


We allow our kids limited exposure to the "public-schooled" kids in our neighborhood. (limited in that we don't allow our kids to sleep over their friends houses... but their friends have slept over here) And this exposure has enabled a whole lot of learning to happen about different value systems in families, and how to relate to other people who don't share the same priorities... especially it has helped in lessons of charity, and in solidarity with one's siblings.

A danger I try to avoid in these lessons is a feeling of "us against them". That only leads to further alienation, and could even foster the deadly sin of pride. I think home schoolers may be especially prone to this danger.

Great thoughts!


Love2Learn Mom said...

Great comments - and very relevant, Dana! :)