I have read a bookshelf full of books on homeschooling over the years. They all have a place, a purpose, a moment; but some are a one-time read and some I cherish like a good friend and return to again and again. There are only a handful that I ever recommend and only a couple that I recommend without reservation. At the top of my current favorite list is a book entitled, The School of the Family: A Renaissance of Catholic Formation by Chantal Howard.
Catholic homeschooling has changed a bit over the years from what I can tell. It has developed and flourished into something more than just "Catholic school at home." Each homeschool is different and I don't claim to know the right path for any family; but there is a beautiful fresh breeze blowing through the Church, and the Ecclesiae Domestica, which is bringing renewal from the inside out. It is a spirit of creativity and boldness and beauty that says: We have not been created for school... we have been created for God. It frees the family from fear and allows a stunning work to be undertaken.
That's why I love this book, The School of the Family. Chantal was homeschooled, although not in a perfect home. And now she homeschools herself, imperfectly. She isn't the most experience home-educator who has written a book, but she gets it... and she passes the fire that drives her on to the reader. Her vision of what God wants for her family and for all families is crystal clear. Her writing looks squarely at the struggles and sufferings of her childhood and womanhood and holds it up to the light of the Cross. She sees the adventure of the gift of Life and Faith and challenges the reader to pursue it passionately.
If you are looking for charts and organizational tips and the how-to-nitty-gritty of homeschool life, you won't find it in this book. But if you are looking to renew (or inspire) a Godly passion and a roadmap for life success for your family, this book has it. It is less about academics and more about the souls of our children. And isn't that why we embrace this way of life in the first place?
I strongly encourage you to buy this book, read it twice, and pass it on. Chantal has the key to the renewal of the Church... through the family. I am humbled by her insights, knowing that I am a far cry from where I need to be. I am motivated to embrace the colorful, beautiful, dynamic, suffering, loving family life that God has gifted to me.
I have a number of favorite passages but I'll highlight just one. (Actually, just read the whole book, eh?)
"Surely what Timothy calls our young people to is, once again, a great challenge; a path that paves over the mediocrity of our times. Our young people are crying out for us to take them and their faith seriously. If we do not respond to their hunger and openness when they are young, then by the time they are teens, they simply abandon the quest for the higher goods. They see that we don't believe they can be saints now, not down the road when they are older. We fail as parents if we push them downstream with the rest of the crowd of disoriented youth, hoping that at some moment after their high school years they will simply change direction. How foolish this mentality proves to be.
Our youth are ready for the real call of the Gospel now. Tragically, it is often too late to try to reach them with the message of faith and responsibility once they go off to college and find their faith tested. We must provide the opportunities for the application of faithful practices long before they go forth from us. They must see outside of our culture; they must face the challenge of the world which mocks them; and they must learn to make choices that require trust in God rather than in social systems that seek to move them along a second-rate path of earthly success and glory."
The School of the Family is available at Amazon.com and also through The School of the Family website (which is a joy to explore).
Incidentally, I was not asked to write a review or given a review copy. I bought it and read it and liked it so well that I am happy and eager to share what I have discovered.