Tales from the Bonny Blue house has a great post on setting goals for homeschooling and the differences in homeschooling children with special needs.
In the case of our homeschool and all of the others in the community which we belong the ultimate and first goal is heaven. We are educating our children to know,love and serve God; to be devout Catholics; to love their faith; to love their families and their neighbor.
What a great formulation. I don’t think I could put it better myself. This is exactly what I want to strive for with Bella.
But, she says, we also need to formulate more temporal goals as well.
What if your goal isn’t as clear cut? What if you have a child with special needs for whom high schools, SATs and universities are not an option. Then how do you discern the goal? The primary goal remains the same. Heaven, a relationship with God, a good prayer life all as best as can be accomplished depending on your child’s abilities. And don’t worry if it takes five years for him to learn the Hail Mary – God knows this child’s abilities and loves and glorifies the efforts. Tremendous grace shall come of it.
It’s a great glimpse into the life of one Catholic family discerning God’s plan for their children instead of imposing their own plans. Of course, with some children it is quite obvious that we must revise our plans because they simply will not be capable of all we might hope for them. But really we need to do this with all our children. Education can never be about imposing our goals and ideals on our children. Instead we must listen to our children and discover their interests and their talents. And we must listen to God to hear what he has to say.
Ryan’s goals are different. It is unlikely at this point that Ryan will be able to learn higher math or embrace great literature such as Shakespeare and Milton. He can memorize facts about history but lacks the ability to fully understand the causes and effects of the events he is memorizing. The same applies to any science he picks up. So what is the goal? For what are we educating him?
Functioning well in everyday life is the primary. Ryan needs to know enough math to use an ATM, to go to the market and to balance a checkbook. He needs to be able to make or count change and avoid being cheated. He needs to be able to read and follow directions well enough to fill out a job application or an insurance form. He needs to be able to read a map and find his destination. These are not lofty goals but they are likely to take the next ten years to accomplish. We will not ignore the other things, he will still listen to Shakespeare and Milton and will visually be taught geometry and algebra but the goal is functioning in the world around him well enough to get by.
Ryan does have some gifts that make discerning God’s plan for him a little easier. He is a gifted musician with a great love of God. He is gifted with great piety. Before he could tell time Ryan instinctively knew when it was 3:00 p.m. and would say the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I did not teach him this, it just came to him. He spends a great deal of his time in our yard walking with his rosary, praying fifteen decades. His great joy comes from playing the guitar for our weekly family rosary night or for the occasional home Mass said by one of the Franciscan Friars we know. He loves the Mass. Tridentine, Novus Ordo, Life Teen, whatever…. he just loves to be part of it.
This has given us some direction. He has on many occasions over the years expressed a desire to be a priest. While I do not believe the rigors of the seminary would be possible we have great hopes for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. We love these friars and know many of them well. They are so good with children and Ryan loves nothing more than to be at one of the friaries. We have talked to several of the priests there about people like Ryan who might have a vocation but not the capacity for seminary or vows. They assure us that there can be a place in religious life for those people.
And often God has much grander plans than any we could come up with on our own.