Amanda Evinger is the grateful mother of four children (and two others who have died), whom she homeschools with her husband Michael in a “little house on the prairie” in rural North Dakota. A convert from Calvinism, she spends her days in love with the Church and her vocation as wife and mother. She worked for nine years as Senior Writer for Catholic Stewardship Consultants and is a regular blogger and contributor to several Catholic publications, including the Latin Mass Magazine, Seton Home School Magazine, the Dakota Catholic Action, and the National Catholic Register.
Picture this – children ducking down in a rickety 12-passenger van passing through town on school days so that no one would see them squirming. Now picture this — a deputy sheriff and four other police cars, lights on and all, arresting their dad after Mass on a First Friday for deciding to homeschool. Last, but not least, picture this — mom and dad detained, and a bunch of children waiting to eat supper, and the sheriff finally giving up and letting them all go. For the next couple of years, they had to “lay low” and suffer it out as they awaited homeschooling to be legalized. And even after that, the road was still very rocky.
So, I assume you are thinking this story sounds pretty wacky and anti-American. The truth is, it's not. It's legit, and it's the story of what my husbands' parents, true pioneer homeschooling “trail-blazers,” went through about 30 years ago. I'm so grateful for what my in-laws went through to pave the way for us more pampered homeschooling families in today's America. I'm incredibly thankful that they ripped the boards off of the abandoned “school houses” that belonged to the hearts of parents — the somewhat long-lost, first teachers of their children. Because of their courage that forged the way, my job as a homeschooling mom isn't illegal, or even completely off-the-wall in the eyes of most of my neighbors.
Lately, I've been savoring the fruit of our homeschooling labors. My daughter, who just turned 9, warmed our home this winter (it was in the negative 20s in December... yes, I said “negative”) by playing Christmas carols on the piano, and easy versions of classical pieces. This is the same gal who can make organic wheat buns from scratch almost all by herself, knows how to soothe a colicky baby in two minutes flat, can pray simple prayers in Latin with ease, is working on a dashing watercolor painting of the Nativity scene for an art contest, and won the reading contest at our public library for the last three summers in a row (getting a brand new bike as a prize each time!) The other day, I caught my 6-year-old son reading a copy of Cowboy Sam to his little sister, and with an elated voice said, “Mom, I can read almost every word!” This is the same kid, who by the way, gets seriously “giddy” when he does second grade math, is learning how to bow hunt, and, on rainy days, plays with his Mass set, pretending he is Padre Pio offering Holy Mass — stigmata and all (this can get interesting).
And to top off the cake, today, my Shirley-Temple-look-alike 3-year-old daughter Marella Grace was making googly eyes at our baby, Marshall, and she proudly announced out of nowhere, “Mommy, baby Marshall is my best friend.” And she meant it. She spends all day with him, and they have their little imaginative world that turns around and around inside a cozy home decorated with sacred images and filled with oodles of innovative homeschooling materials, and classic toys.
Homeschooling gives us time to cuddle with our kids like crazy, and read them Cinderella and Anne of Green Gables. It gives us time to dive into profound discussions with them about the teachings of our sacred faith, visit nursing home residents, craft Jesse Tree ornaments, and go “all out” for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by decorating home altars Mexican-style. Homeschooling gives us the chance to bring our children to receive Jesus at daily Mass during the week, go on adventuresome nature hikes, dance to the waltzes of Strauss together, and chant memorized poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. It makes time for our children's inquisitive minds to flourish and find their home in the garlands of the true, the good and the beautiful; to listen intently to Vivaldi's Four Seasons while sitting on their mother's knee, to invent our own instruments, to tackle learning to crochet and playing the fiddle. It gives us time to go to pro-life marches, and make up science experiments in a way that makes the Creator's glory come fully alive before young eyes. Homeschooling makes it possible to grow, learn, and love in one's Domestic Church, with a singing liberty, without having to heed to the cacophony and angst of cultural decadence. Homeschooling gives us time to embrace love.
Truly, we are privileged to live in the “land of the free,” where parents still retain their God-given rights to educate the children they brought into this world. What I am boasting about is the freedom in our country to homeschool, the marvelous grace from on high to lay ahold of our duty to education our children whom God graciously entrusted to our care.
Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon speaks explicitly about the sacrificial nature of homeschooling, as well as what a spiritual fortress it can be in the misdt of the grinding threats of the culture of death:
This is the age of martyrs ...and a martyr is one who suffers for the profession of his faith. There is red martyrdom and white martyrdom. There is bloody martyrdom and unbloody martyrdom.
You have to live a heroic Catholic life in America today. God will use you and provide you with the knowledge and the wisdom, providing you are living the authentically heroic Catholic life. Home schooling, in our country, is that form of teaching and training of children at home in order to preserve the Catholic faith in the family, and to preserve the Catholic faith in our country.
He also gives us a reflection as to why Catholic homeschooling is absolutely essential to the growth of the Kingdom of God, and a mark of the authentic heroism of its members:
Home schooling has been necessary in the Catholic Church since her foundation... do we know that home schooling is necessary? First, we know it from divine revelation. There were not established Catholic schools in the Roman Empire back in the first 300 years of the Church's history. Except for parents becoming, believing, and being heroic Catholics in the early Church, nothing would have happened. The Church would have died out before the end of the first century. Home schooling in the United States is the necessary concomitant of a culture in which the Church is being opposed on every level of her existence and, as a consequence, given the widespread secularization in our country, home schooling is not only valuable or useful but it is absolutely necessary for the survival of the Catholic church in our country.
Hat's off to you, Fr. Hardon, a zenith in our little “homeschooling sky,” who helped us ignite the torch, and kept it ablaze in its earliest days. I believe you are still all afire, for our sake, with prayer and jubilant praise, cheering us on from above.