mater et magister—some homeschooling thoughts inspired by a new magazine

mater et magister—some homeschooling thoughts inspired by a new magazine

from the archive of half-finished blog posts.

Sometimes I find it impossible to write a straight review. My thoughts get all tangled up with personal reflections and what comes out is more of a personal essay than a review. Good thing I’m not getting paid for this. (My one attempt to write a book review for Dom when he was editor of CWR was a disaster. It never got even close to being finished.) If you want the review of mater et magister, the excellent new Catholic homeschooling magazine, skip down a few paragraphs. But to get there I need to wander a bit afield through reminiscence land. Maybe it has something to do with this being the new year and taking stock and all that.

At this time of year three years ago, I was newly married and pregnant with Bella. Faced with a due date just at the end of the spring semester and finals time, unsure of what the future might hold and already rueful about having to give up two fall classes in midterm because of the trials of morning sickness, I decided to not teach during the spring semester.

I was fearful about staying home all day with nothing to do to occupy my mind and so I set myself a project: to discover as much as I could about homeschooling. Before we were even dating, Dom and I had begun discussing such weighty issues as the raising of children and had found common ground on the subject of homeschooling. But I hadn’t much actual knowledge about the subject and knew I’d need to learn much more and that once I had a babe in arms my research time might become much more limited.

I found many resources: books and blogs and other websites. I recorded my finds on my own blog and so even before I’d held my first baby I became a sort of homeschooling blogger, a homeschooler by desire if not by actual fact. In the past year or two, though, reading and writing about homeschooling has become more and more rare as I have focus my writing more on the here and now of mothering my toddler and baby rather than planning for their future education. Several homeschooling books sit unread on the shelf and, while I keep up with my favorite homeschooling bloggers, I’m apt to blog more about baby and toddler life.

And yet that too is homeschooling for I am (and here we get to the title of the magazine at least) both mother and teacher to my little girls. Whether it’s teaching Bella to say please and thank you, teaching Sophia not to bite, reading picture books, reciting prayers, playing games or singing songs, I’m always teaching them. And though I’ve curtailed my buying of new homeschooling books, that hasn’t stopped me from entering book drawings for them when I stumble across such drawings online. I never used to win contests of any kind, but in the past year I’ve managed to win two homeschooling books and a subscription to the new homeschooling magazine, mater et magistra to which I’ve very much been wanting to subscribe, but couldn’t quite justify the money in the budget when we’re not really there yet as far as homeschooling. (I suspect maybe my guardian angel has had a hand in helping me get these items I’ve wanted so much.)

So anyway I got my first free issue the other day and realized that not subscribing had been a mistake as soon as I began to read “Counting it All Joy,” the cover article by Melissa Wiley—it brought tears to my eyes and was exactly what I needed to hear. The title of this magazine is apt, I am mother and teacher and this magazine speaks to me where I am now even if it will still be a couple of years before Bella begins any more formalized schooling.

The theme of the Fall 2008 issue is Joy. I definitely needed these articles that reminded me about the importance of joy in our home life. Of course, many articles were about specific homeschooling questions, I enjoyed those too. It’s the kind of stuff I love to read, and from many of my favorite homeschooling bloggers and authors, familiar friends as well as some new voices. I found book reviews galore (and many titles to be added to our wishlist), Alice Gunther’s crafty ideas for celebrating the liturgical year, nature study with MacBeth Derham, a motivational piece by Laura Berquist and much more. I even discovered one of those fortuitous coincidences that give me the happy shivers:  the author of the Tomie dePaola book, The Holy Twins, is none other than Kathleen Norris, whose writing I recently discovered with her non-fiction memoir, Acedia and Me.

The magazine has a very friendly format, small enough to be tucked into the pocket of your purse to be read in the waiting room. If I have any complaint, it is only that it was all too short. I foolishly devoured it in an afternoon and must now try to wait patiently for the next issue.  One thing is certain, though, when my free subscription runs out, this is one magazine I won’t let lapse.

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  • I am so glad you wrote this post.  I decided not to consider grad school sometime during my senior year of college (some years ago).  My decision was confirmed when my oral exam on my senior essay included a question about the husband as pimp in Rousseau’s “La Nouvelle Heloise”.  My topic had been love and virtue, and somehow this twisted view of the role of the husband was conveyed to me, not as an individual perspective, but as the authoritative view of the text.  I was interested in the story, and character development, and the thematic development of the relationship between romantic love and virtuous behavior.  Now I’m amazed that I managed to get to my senior year at an Ivy League school without losing this perspective.  And, from watching my children in high school, things have only gotten worse.  I think guidance in literary development is important at the outset, so that one can learn how to read with depth and insight.  But such instruction seems to be the exception rather than the rule nowadays.  Yet another reason to homeschool…

  • That’s a good description of why I lost interest in academic study and didn’t go to grad school. (That and the politics, both departmental and party.) It caused me a lot of cognitive dissonance; the more I loved the literature or the subject, the more I hated getting taught it or being forced to write about it wrongly. I kept trying to get helpful information or timeless verities from the professors, and kept getting crud instead. (And at that, my academic experience was much better than that of many people I’ve heard from.)

    That’s part of why I enjoy podcasting Maria Lectrix so much. I can get into the literature, whatever it is, without having to make some stupid po-mo pronouncement, or ripping on people who were better writers than I am for not being 21st century American academics of the preferred party and opinions.