The Concept of Catholic Unschooling
Author Interview with Suzie Andres
Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling
by Lisa M. Hendey
Whether you are a homeschooling parent or simply a parent concerned with the quality of your children’s faith formation and education, you owe it to yourself and your family to learn a bit about the concept of “unschooling”. In her new book Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling (Christendom Press, October 1004, paperback, 132 pages) takes a look at this “gentle” variation to the traditional homeschooling path. As a mother of two Catholic school students, I must admit that I initially approached Andres’ book from a perspective of suspicion. My reading of this book, however, produced much fruit in the form of an enhanced appreciation for my own role, and especially that of my children themselves, in their own educations. In his comments on the book, noted author and professor Ralph McInerny reminds us that "The Church has always insisted that the parents are the primary educators of their children." Far from being critical of formal education, Andres book is a positive and uplifting commentary on the concept of "unschooling" and shares ideas and suggestions that will be of value to any family, regardless of your educational preferences.
Suzie Andres, wife and mother of two, shared the following comments on Homeschooling with Gentleness.
Q: Would you please introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
A: Thank you, Lisa, for your interest in my book. I am a Catholic homeschooling mother of two boys, Joseph and Dominic, ages 15 and 2 respectively. My husband Tony and I met at Thomas Aquinas College in California, and continued our studies together at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. There our courtship turned into an engagement and we married in 1988. After Tony received his Ph.D in philosophy, he was hired to teach at Christendom College. Thus in 1993 we moved to Front Royal, Virginia, and we’ve been here ever since.
When we were first married, Tony and I anticipated becoming the parents of a large family, and we planned to homeschool our children. We knew homeschooling families that we really admired, and couldn’t imagine a better form of education. God surprised us with a different plan; after two years of marriage we had Joseph, and then it was another 12 years before our second child, Dominic was born. When Joseph was three, I began to get cold feet about homeschooling, and we ended up sending him to two schools in the next two years. Finally I mustered up the courage to give homeschooling a try (Joseph was now six), figuring that we could always send him back to school if it didn’t work out. Here we are still homeschooling nine years later; I guess it worked out!
Q: I’m amazed that a homeschooling mom can make time to write and publish a book! What motivated you to write this book and how did you accomplish your goal?
A: I have always loved reading. One of the things that I enjoy most about reading is that sense of connection with an author when we think along the same lines, sharing the same opinions about human nature. Often my own opinions are not clearly thought out, but there is a resonance with something I read which helps me to clarify my thoughts. Perhaps you have experienced that “Aha!” when you read something true that you had not heard expressed just that way before, or which you had not been able to express yourself.
Like many homeschooling mothers, I read books on homeschooling hoping to experience that resonance. I had always wanted to find a homeschooling book in which the author shared my opinions about children and education, and mapped out an approach that matched what we were doing in our own home. Not that I knew exactly what I thought about children and education; in fact, I often am not sure what we are actually doing in our home! But I realized that I was reading homeschooling books not only to find new methods and materials, but more often to find a name for what we were already doing.
When I began to read about unschooling, it felt very familiar. I recognized that what went on in our home looked a lot like unschooling, but I worried that unschooling was not quite a Catholic approach. None of its main proponents were Catholic, very few were Christian, and many espoused a very secular outlook. My husband Tony was able to reassure me that we could be Catholic unschoolers, and he had many compelling arguments explaining the fittingness of this combination. However, I have a horrible memory, and so I’d return to him often to hear his explanations. I realized that if I wrote a book on the subject, I could give the poor man a rest!
In fact, writing about Catholic unschooling really appealed to me for three reasons. First, I could get down on paper Tony’s ...
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