I asked my family what I should write my next blog article on and my eight-year-old piped up and exclaimed, “ME!!!” I laughed loudly, but then I got to thinking about it…he was right, it had been a long time since I had written a “homeschool blues,” update. Though most of my homeschool updates have much to do with him, right now is the time that most families, God-willing, begin to discern what their next year may look like. What is discernment?
According to Webster, discernment is the ability to judge well with a view of spiritual guidance and understanding. I am in the deep trenches of discernment…and it has been VERY difficult! As a parent, we all want to do what is best for our children and sometimes it is exceedingly difficult to hear God’s voice amidst all of the distractions.
Discernment is something that I seem to always be doing. It is a never-ending process. As a Christian, I think that is what our life is about! We are forever listening to the voice of God, and then, hopefully, acting upon his holy will for our lives. Thus, with the education of my children, I never cease praying and doing what God is calling us to do as a family. This past year, it was to bring our children home, in order that, I catch my eight-year-old son up, specifically in reading. We began the school year with our three oldest children at home. At Christmas, we discerned that our oldest, who is in the eighth grade, go back to our Catholic Middle school. There were many factors that went into this decision, but after the decision was made peace filled our hearts and she is forever grateful to be back in a school setting with her friends and teachers.
I have learned so much about my children by being home with them this year. Knowing my children in a more profound way is a double edge sword. Though it is beautiful, it makes parts of discernment more difficult and other parts a bit easier. Currently, as a family, we are discerning what to do next year with the two that we still have at home. What is best for them? How has this year gone? Have the children grown spiritually, academically, socially, emotionally while being at home. Each morning in my prayer I take all these questions to God and Mama Mary and ask them to quiet my heart so that I may hear what we are called to do. I have made my pros and cons list for keeping them home, as well as for sending them back into the school system. What I have come up with is that there is not right or wrong answer, but what it comes down to is what is BEST for them individually and that may honestly be different for each of the children.
St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us as Christians that discernment always takes place between two or more GOOD things. We do not discern between something good and something bad. In fact, our conscience should be alert enough to prompt us not to make a choice towards something which may lead us away from God. I know that sending my children to school would not lead them away from God, nor would keeping them home. Thus, amid my discernment, I need to move beyond the obvious two choices. I must have conversations with my children to see what they are feeling. They do not get to make the decision, but I feel, at their age, it is important to understand how they feel. I need to look at their whole person: Has homeschooling been best for their mental health? Their spiritual health? Their academic wellbeing? I need to offer all of my thoughts to the Lord and then spend time listening, really listening to what God is saying. After I listen, I must then act…I cannot just pray forever, even though that seems like the most beautiful thing to do. When I act, I know I made the right choice if I feel a great sense of peace. If I do not feel that peace, I must re-examine my decision.
I encourage all of you reading this, whether your children are homeschooled or in the education system to really discern what God is calling of your family…Please do not just blindly go about your life doing what you have always done in the past. Whatever God calls our family to do next year, this year has been true gift!!! God may be calling you to something different and by avoiding the gift of discernment you could miss out on the greatest gift God is wanting to give to you, your child, or your entire family! Allow your family to do the will of God in all things!