Educating the Whole Child

Academic, spiritual, social and physical aspects of development are closely interrelated. Discipline gained from playing sports on a team can carry over into academic habits. Questions about Church teaching that come up in a social setting can help reinforce the child’s faith. Academic assignments are an excellent place to practice important virtues.


Formation vs. Information

Solid interior development is more important than learning a great deal of information.

  • Self-discipline
  • Virtues
  • Thinking skills
  • Interest in learning
  • Habits

You certainly want solid academic content, but there are many areas of academics that you catch up on later in life more easily than the above mentioned habits and virtues.

Integration of Faith and Academics

This is what makes a Catholic education…Catholic. A “Religion only” mentality doesn’t

Math Example (in addition to more practical considerations):

  • develops and disciplines the mind
  • provides a sense of order (which we learn to see in God’s creation)
  • presents the opportunity to practice virtues such as patience, neatness and perseverance (for both children and their parents!!!)

Training the Will (Self-Discipline)

  • forming habits (start young and build in small steps)
  • the will needs exercise just like the body does
  • stories of St. Therese and other Saints / Morning Offering – rely on God
  • parents need to know the difference between laziness and difficulty with the subject matter

Spiritual Formation

The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1839

The spiritual nature of the child must be considered at all times.
Prayer, the Sacraments, family life, parental example and academic studies are essential.
History, literature and science can help reinforce the faith.


Schools provide “automatic” socialization – for better or for worse.
Homeschoolers have to plan socialization – this is important, but not difficult.
Like many other things, some children need more practice than others.

Consider social goals for your children – particularly as they get to adulthood - such as: good manners, working well with others, sensitivity to others needs.

Ideally your children should socialize with homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers.

Important considerations:

  • age and maturity
  • protect their innocence, especially in the early years
  • know activities are safe and supervised by trustworthy adults
  • be available to talk about experiences, questions
  • develop strengths and encourage growth in weaker areas

Isolationism vs. Controlled Exposure

Social possibilities (and examples of what they can provide)…

  • Classes (e.g. art, gymnastics, dance) - respect authority, classroom decorum, comfort level around non-family members
  • Sports – physical exercise and discipline, being a team player (Parish teams, soccer clubs, local recreation department programs and summer sports camps at the local high school are some possibilities.)
  • Volunteer work – experience challenges and solutions, self-esteem, joy in helping others
  • Have whole families over to visit – support and camraderie for children and parents
  • Group activities such as academic clubs, nature outings
  • Interaction with other adults – mentors

Physical Education and Motor Skills

To a certain extent - if the body isn’t happy, the mind isn’t happy.

Work in physical areas carries over to school subjects – confidence, self-discipline, perseverance, etc.

Fine motor skills can be a big issue in academics – find creative ways to develop in this area – such as legos, artwork, stringing beads, making rosaries and doing paper mazes.

Homeschooling can be great for balancing these needs – you can let your children run around between subjects, do artwork during read-alouds, chew gum (helpful for very active or noisy children who otherwise distract their siblings), etc.

What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers--they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain. (Dorothy Sayers "the Lost Tools of Learning")