I am a Byzantine Catholic, homeschooling mom, who is married to an ordained Deacon. Our lives tend to focus in a spiritual way…most of the time. But, we are human! And our youngest son has decided he wants to be an Air Force Pilot. Last night, he listed for us his order of preference for which branch of the military he wants to serve – (1) Air Force, (2) Navy, (3) Army Air Cav, (4) Marines, (5) Army (as in on the ground). Now, there is some dispute in our family because his dad was Navy and his oldest brother was Army. No one has ever flown in our family… insofar as our little, nuclear family, no pilots. This same son of ours recently, as in 5 months ago, joined the Civil Air Patrol. I have to say, as a mother, I am loving every moment he spends in CAP. He was nervous about a quiz his Sergeant was going to give him. I told him that since they would be doing it as a Flight, or unit, and all of them would be answering at once, he needn’t be worried. If he messed up, no one would know or hear him. His response? “But mom, that is called “personal integrity” and I would know I messed it up, and it would let down my flight.” WOW! Mom moment of pure bliss and pride! And CAP is instilling all sorts of other attributes in him that I am absolutely thrilled with, that in no way contradict our beliefs as Christians. In fact, this particular Squadron is interested in my husband participating as its Chaplain. Something to keep in mind is that CAP is an auxiliary of the Air Force. Everything they do is AF-oriented. Their uniforms are AF, their ranks, their training…all AF, all the way. Our son is required to attend an ‘encampment’ which, in AF terminology, is like Basic Training. It is on a base and conducted solely by CAP members, with assistance from AF personnel. He is so excited to attend, but even to qualify to attend, you have certain things you have to test out of, and a certain rank must be attained. After he completes his encampment, he qualifies to begin flight training. They can actually help him to achieve his pilot’s license in both gliders and fixed wing engine planes before his driver’s license! The cost is minimal, because it is all through the AF. My husband would also be required to undergo serious AF training in their chaplaincy program and is on the fence about it, because it is a commitment and takes a lot of time, effort, and study. He is going to wait a little bit and see how it functions, and our son’s reaction to being a part of CAP. The curriculum they are required to use for advancement is online, in very large and heavy books, and is approved for junior high education in science, math, and technology. For a homeschooling mom, curriculum that gets their attention, teaches them something they like, and is within the guidelines of my requirements (they do not offend my sense of religiosity or morals) and also qualifies for whatever State requirements there are, and is FREE, well, total win-win!! And off we are, on this new adventure in CAP. And it is taking homeschooling in a completely new direction for me.
I homeschooled both of my older sons until they entered high school. Both attended Catholic High Schools; one a boarding school and the other a day school. Both of those were tuition-intensive! This same youngest son wants to attend “Aviation High School.” This is a free day school in our area, subsidized in part by Boeing and in part by the District. They allow just 100 new students a year and focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math…they call it “STEM” education, using an acronym created from the courses focused on. We have Open House this Thursday evening. He is over-the-moon excited, but scared at the same time. Through Scouts, he participated in a Robotics program at Aviation and he knows several graduates of the school. One of the Assistant Scout Masters is meeting us at the Open House (he helps run the Robotics program, even though his sons have graduated) and is writing a letter of recommendation for our son, and wants to introduce him to faculty and staff on Thursday. It is exciting and scarey…he would have to attend a school outside the home, and he is a little nervous about keeping up. We will see. I am not completely sold on it and think just using the CAP curriculum will get him into the AF, but we all need to look at the alternatives, as well. It is hard to believe he is already 14 and ready to fly…quite literally, as well as figuratively.
“The task of every teacher is to give to his children a defined, permanent, stable foundation, on which he can in the future build a strong structure, a wise understanding of life. Contemporary schooling gives no knowledge of the will of the living God, it gives no understanding of how to live by faith and do good. It gives no answer to the basic question of the world concerning what is truth, no answer to the urgent, vital question of how to live. Not the quantity, but the soundness of what is learned is important. One should teach only what could become a true part of oneself: that which can be fashioned usefully by the soul, mind and heart, not just the memory.”
And so, as a parent, I struggle with just how much of this world I want to expose my son to…his two older brothers told me that sending him to a Catholic High School would be a waste of money. They both wanted to be with people their own age and play on sports teams. Neither of them, after they were out of school, continued with sports teams and told me they could have had as much fun with kids their own age by just continuing with their membership on teams in soccer or hockey, and even baseball. They also spoke to being with other kids their own age and both realized that the kids they were with were usually sent to these schools because their parents were at their wit’s end and they did not know how to handle their kids, and so these teens usually did not disappoint their worn-out parents, and acted out. Thanks be to God, at least one of my sons was not influenced unduly by that experience. My eldest son did, indeed, act out as a young adult, but joining the military, going to war and being injured, and being a married man (and now a father) have had a wonderfully positive affect on him and he is once again the contemplative man I knew as a teen. Aviation has no real sports program, but to meet the standards of PE Education, they do have a sort of Frisbee team….I laughed! Just what a group of science-oriented kids would come up with! Apparently, Frisbee can be played with teams and there are quite a few other schools out there who also put forth teams for competition. I think it is called, “Ultimate Frisbee” – who knew??
A question facing me as a homeschooling mom, not quite ready to let the last one leave the nest is: Do I expose my son to a public high school? One of the great gifts of our Byzantine faith is that our sacraments are given all at once, as an infant. So our sons were all baptized, received communion, and confirmation all before they started high school. The sacrament of confirmation, to my mind, is so very important to have when you are “slaying the giants” of our modern culture, not something you should wait for until you are graduating high school! I am prayerfully considering our next move in our youngest son’s educational journey. He has had a far more varied one than either of our older boys, so I am praying he is prepared for what lays ahead. St. John Kronstadt has this to say, further, on education:
“In all your works, either at home or at the place of your service, do not forget that all your strength, your light and your success are in Christ and His Cross; therefore, do not fail to call upon the Lord before beginning any work, saying: Jesus, help me! Jesus, enlighten me! Thus your heart will be supported and warmed by lively faith and hope in Christ, for His is the power and glory unto ages of ages.”
If I can remind my son, that no matter where his journey takes him, his success and his failure will lay within the loving arms of Christ our God, then I feel that we have successfully prepared him for his life. That he can do that which he loves, through the love of Christ, and by asking the blessing of Christ in all he loves to do. Keeping Christ a part of all we do, whether it is our job, our education, our family life, and our moral and spiritual life, engenders in us a proper response to the pressure put upon us by the world. Thanks be to God, we have the teachings of Christ Our Lord, and our Church Fathers, to guide us on our way.
I pray that our homeschooling will lead our children to the journey only they can take, and that because their foundations are on the Presence of God in His Word, His Church, and His people, they will “run the race” and be eternally victorious.
“Your children will always be sufficiently wealthy if they receive from you a good upbringing that is able to order their moral life and behavior. Thus, strive not to make them rich, but rather to make them pious masters of their passions, rich in virtues…” St. John Chrysostom