Virtues of a Homeschool Parent

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. … Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2223)

What are the “qualifications” of a successful homeschool parent?

We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions...They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children's wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children's learning... [children] need access. They need a chance, sometimes, for honest, serious, unhurried talk; or sometimes, for joking, play, and foolishness; or sometimes, for tenderness, sympathy and comfort." (pg. 28) Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling by Suzie Andres, quoting John Holt

Beware the fallacy of perfection. “Illusions are dangerous people – they have no flaws.” (Sabrina, 1995) Families are human and fallen. Having problems and challenges are a normal part of life. We ask God for the grace to work our way through these challenges and cooperate with his great and boundless love for us.

Support is essential. Supportive people will offer perspective, ideas for problem solving, a sense of hope, encouragement to make tough decisions, etc.- especially when serious academic or “family” problems arise.

Don’t be afraid to need help. Find trustworthy friends, mentors, tutors or professionals as needed and don’t let pride get in the way. Pray for guidance and for God to bring supportive and helpful people into your life. You need to be willing to cooperate with His grace. Help isn’t just for “problems” – working with mentors or “co-oping” with other parents can be very beneficial and motivating for you and your children.

One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism. (Gaudium et Spes as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1917)

Virtues of a Homeschool Parent:

The following are virtues that are not only useful in a practical sense for us to better accomplish our goals as homeschool parents, but also ones which we want to cultivate in our own children; and the power of example is one of the most important ways of doing this.

Diligence:

I used the word "diligent" to describe a student. This word (as a Latin verb) is used by Aquinas in his song Adoro Te devote, and it means "love". In order to succeed at acquiring knowledge, the student must LOVE that subject. And that means it would be best for the teacher to also love it, and communicate that love. (G.K.C.'s Favourite)

To love a subject includes having an appreciation of its purpose in the bigger picture even when it doesn’t “delight” in all its particulars. Remember that all learning is for the sake of knowing Christ!

The efforts of you and your children plus God’s grace equal amazing things. This quote from St. Francis helps with perspective: “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Don’t “close doors” based on perceived limitations – seek other options as necessary – don’t be afraid to go out of ordinary school “conventions” – some of them are created for efficiency in the classroom and are unnecessary in a homeschool setting.

Overcoming “roadblocks” –

  • Parents see the big picture and encourage children to persevere.
  • Keep “road-blocks” to a reasonable size.
  • Overcoming “roadblocks” builds confidence and minimizes frustration.

Rigorous vs. Rigid

A rigorous education challenges the child at an appropriate level and helps them grow in all important areas. It seeks to develop their talents and important skills while encouraging them to “reach higher” and put in good effort.

Being too rigid can throw things off balance. Be more concerned with your child’s needs than meeting your own expectations. (think effective vs. efficient)

Children thrive on challenge and responsibility – when success is within reach.
Conversely, lack of challenge/boredom can hurt every aspect of development and formation.

Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1656-1657)

Humility:

Pride is a weakness in the character; it dries up laughter, it drives up wonder, it dries up chivalry and energy. (G.K. Chesterton, Heretics IX)

Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak. - G. K. Chesterton (Father Brown: The Hammer of God)

Be open to God’s providence and seeking God’s will.

Be open to listening to and learning from your children. Children have a fallen nature, but they’re not completely “broken”. One example in our family that always reminds me of this idea happened when my oldest was in 3rd or 4th grade. She found Math very tedious and I tried to help her keep things moving, but it was frustrating for her. One day she came up with an idea. She would take her Math outside, put it on a a folding chair, put on her roller blades and reward herself with a ride up and down the driveway every few problems. It worked, but even if it didn't, it was good to let her try out her very worthwhile idea!

Don’t be afraid to “not know” something. You can set a great example to your children by showing how they can seek answers to their questions. Some of your family’s best learning moments may follow these words: “I don’t know – let’s go find out!”

Enthusiasm

"I myself have little Latin and less Greek. But I know enough Greek to know the meaning of the second syllable of "enthusiasm," and I know it to be the key to this and every other discussion." (G.K. Chesterton The Thing) … The Greek work Theos means "God". "Enthusiasm" literally means "to have God within"! (G.K.C.'s Favourite)

Little ones are the most enthusiastic people in the world.

Take the time to “catch” their enthusiasm and look at the world in a new way.

Appreciate, enjoy and encourage enthusiasm in your children.

Cultivate enthusiasm in yourself.

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Patience

Patience is faith in action. Patience is emotional diligence. It's the willingness to suffer inside so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding. Even as we become aware of our suffering in love, we learn about ourselves and our own weaknesses and motives. (Stephen Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families)

Expect results to take time.

Allow children to process, explore and even enjoy a topic (“make it their own”) before testing their knowledge or expecting “feedback”.

Related Links:

Love2Learn Moments: Teaching and Learning (#30)
One of the most unique aspects of homeschooling, and even parenting in general, is how much parents learn and grow in the process