Creating a Family Rule of Life
Or, How Our Decision to Homeschool Helped Clarify our Family Culture
My family began our homeschooling journey in 2020 when my daughter was beginning second grade, my eldest son was four, and our littlest had just turned two. Since that time, we have tried a variety of options: full time homeschooling, homeschooling one or two at a time while the youngest was in Mothers' Day Out, and, for the last two years, a classical hybrid option for the oldest two while I worked one on one with our youngest (and also worked part time as formation director at our local parish). During this time, the yearning in my heart to fulltime homeschool never went away, and this past December Aaron, my husband, surprised me when he announced out loud what I had been feeling: "I miss full time homeschooling."
As we talked and prayed about this decision, sought advice from friends, and read books on various classical homeschooling methods, one thing in particular kept coming up for me over and over: why? Why does my heart yearn to homeschool? Especially when our family is fortunate enough to live in an area where there are an array of excellent alternative schooling options (Sequitur Classical Academy, Great Hearts Harveston, Regina Caeli Academy, Chesterton Academy of Divine Mercy, to name just a few).
Little did I know that seeking the answer to this question would lead me to a full scale assessment of our family culture and the composition of a Family Rule of Life.
Enter the book Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, well-known to many veteran homeschooling parents. In the book, the author, Sarah Mackenzie, advises writing out your reasons for homeschooling, not only to provide clarity for yourself and your family culture, but also to provide much-needed inspiration for those (inevitable) times you find yourself in need of a minor exorcism just to get through the day's math lesson.
Mackenzie specifically encourages parents to ponder the words they hope their children will use to describe their family once they have grown up, identify what draws your family to homeschool, and to evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses. I would take this a step further and also add in specifically what commitments to God and to each other your family desires to make a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual part of your family life.
Treat this exercise as a mini-retreat. Set aside a day where you can get to Confession, Mass and Adoration. Pray a novena as a family (to one of your family's patron saints, perhaps) leading up to this day. Find time during the days leading up to your "retreat" day to have a date with your spouse to discuss your hopes and dreams for your family life. I found the entire exercise to be a lot of fun as well as spiritually consoling!
Once you have pondered these and committed them to paper, you will discover you have created an excellent Rule of Life that will serve you and your family again and again, not just in the many decisions that come with home education, but also in navigating the many other choices parents face daily that, over time, can either nourish or warp the family culture.
Once this is done, implementation is simple. If the proposed schedule, curriculum, extracurricular activity, or social opportunity does not serve the Family Rule of Life, then the decision is an easy "no." That book, that activity, that friend group does not belong in your Domestic Church right now.
On the other hand, if the item or opportunity in question will help nourish your family culture, then by all means, give it a full-hearted yes!
Words to Inspire
While I am not going to include my full Family Rule of Life here, I will post some quotes below that spoke to me and helped me along in my discernment process. I hope they will encourage and inspire you, as well, and please feel free to share others in the comments!
"Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." - John 13:1
"The true aim of education is to order a child's affections – to teach him to love what he ought and hate what he ought. Our greatest task, then, is to put living ideas in front of our children like a feast. We have been charged to cultivate the souls of our children, to nourish them in truth, goodness, and beauty, to raise them up in wisdom and eloquence. It is to those ends that we labor." – Sarah MacKenzie, Teaching from Rest
"The most important thing every teacher should understand is that teaching is the art of being imitated. If you want a student to perceive truth you have to embody it. That's what teaching is. When you teach, whether you intend to or not, you are saying to your students, 'imitate me.' Make yourself worthy of imitation." – Andrew Kern, CiRCE Institute
"It is our part to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot." – St. Jerome
“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal
"The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies." – Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Words are world-makers.” – Robert MacFarlane
“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” – Charlotte Mason
"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest." - St. Thomas More
“I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.” - St. Jose Maria Escriva
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." - St. Julian of Norwich