Monday, August 6, 2007

Education Permeated with the Faith...

I believe that the following passage from Pius XI's Encyclical On Christian Education is an essential text for home educators attempting to understand what Catholic education is ...
'It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.' On Christian Education #80 Pius XI)
On this page I invite readers to share their ideas for applying these principles in their homes. There has been a great deal of discussion among Catholic homeschoolers about the need for Catholic texts and there are a number of companies working to fulfill this need. Nevertheless, I think it is important to also consider the less tangible ways in which we apply these principles in raising our children.

Living the Virtues... One very basic way in which this principle can be applied is in reminding and encouraging our children to practice the virtues as they fulfill their duties as students and children of God. For example, even where Math doesn't directly teach them about their Faith, it can be an excellent opportunity to practice the virtues of patience, neatness, obedience, perseverance, etc. An excellent source of developing this idea is from the story of St. Therese of Lisieux, "the Little Flower." Her little way includes offering everything up to God - not just the things that are hard for us - but the things we enjoy as well.


Applying the Faith to Everything... Another thing to consider is that our faith shouldn't be limited to a little "box" marked "Religion". Understanding Science, History, and Literature Studies (to name just a few) through the "lens" of Catholicism prevents Religion from being such an abstract concept and prepares children to apply principles of the Faith to their own lives - particularly when they leave home.

Within our school plans, some ways of keeping things in perspective include discussing literature in light of the Faith, studying Saint biographies as part of History, and learning to think of nature as the amazing design of God.

On a more practical level, parents need to be a positive example to their children in living God's laws even as it applies to mundane things like paying taxes, obeying traffic laws and loving our neighbors.

One example in literature that has always struck me was a sub-plot in Hilda Van Stockum's The Winged Watchman. Set in Holland during World War II, the story involves a family whose son has voluntarily joined up with the Nazis to spy on his own people.
"Mother was shocked when Father told her that Leendert Schenderhans had become a landwatcher.

'And the parents such good Catholics!' she cried.

'Hmph!' grunted Father. 'You women always judge people by what they do in church. I judge them by what they do outside. Farmer Schenderhans is getting rich in the black market.' (The Winged Watchman, Chapter 2)
To me, this passage is a chilling reminder of the power of example. I don't think it's even meant to imply that every fault and imperfection on the part of parents will lead to the total downfall of their children - after all, we're all imperfect. But it might have been different perhaps, if Mr. Schenderhans had sold something illegally because he was desperate to buy food for his own family. Instead, he is deliberately profiting from the high prices brought about by the evils of war and at the expense of his suffering countrymen.

No comments: