religion, Unschooling

The Heart

I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and most important difficulty known to human beings seems to lie in that area which deals with how to bring up children and how to educate them. Michel De Montaigne ( 1533-92)

And so begins the book The Film Club – a memoir of a father and son, growing together. The father, David Gilmour, a film critic, allowed his son Jesse to drop out of school at Year Ten, with two provisos.. that Jesse not do drugs and that Jesse watch three films a week with his father, the film critic father , three films of the father’s choice…with discussion.

Reviewers of the book wrote…

A heartfelt portrait of how…in the midst of a family’s confusion and ire, there is sometimes nothing so welcome as a movie…

..Gilmour’s experience suggests that what really counts, for parent and child, is simply being together.

I read this book as a parent on the last legs, so to speak, of her official homeschooling adventure. Only two of the seven sons are now official homeschoolers, the other five having moved into university and work or both.

And next year, there will be only one official, registered homeschooler..Anthony, as Thomas will be at university too.

I read The Film Club, this book, and contemplate our family’s homeschooling, unschooling adventure.

I think it is true to say that this adventure has been based on books and movies amd on discussion..And on simply being together, through many moves, financial troubles, sickness, miscarriages, babies, toddlers, volunteer work, Mum’s conversion to Catholicism, ire,, laughter, a weird sense of dark humour and sarcasm, a healthy dash of cynicism, fun,music, outings, people , friends…..masses and prayers, visiting priests and work…and those books, movies and discussion.

For all of our life has become our education, our learning, and has made our family, as individuals and as a whole. who it is that we are today.

Someone told my son Jonathon recently that it was good for him to be away from his mother’s presence and out of his shell..and yet, when I feel full of self doubt and ponder my inadequacies as a strong mum, Jonathon tells me heatedly, determinedly, that there is no shell, he is not disempowered by my strength of character but has a strong character himself. We all do, mum, he says, we Westenbergs are all determined and hard headed .

Yes, I see that who I am, with faults and failings, has also been part of the children’s education. We have not separated life and family and learning but thrown it all together, in a seemngly ad hoc way, to create a smorgasbord of education. people who love books, music, movies, talking, people..and their faith.

There is no dichotomy between education and family life.

Eucharistic spirituality must be the interior motor of every activity, and no dichotomy is acceptable between faith and life in their [ the lay person’s] mission of spreading the spirit of Christianity in the world.

So I read this morning in Heart of the Christian Life: Thoughts on Holy Mass ( Pope Benedict XVI).

Can I draw some parallels here?

There is no dichotomy betwen faith and life..we adore Christ, we receive Him and , after adoration, as we are filled with Christ’s love, we take Him within us, share Him, to our, we love and live and spend time with our children and take this love into our activity, passions, our interests, our little interest driven explorations, our education.

Just as parenting, and unschooling, are not based on activity and busyness first but instead based on life and love and then, almost organically, a curriculum and learning emerges..Just as love is the centre of the unschooling form of, too, as the Holy Father says, we base our faith on love and adoration and, yes, acceptance of doctrines ( for, a church bulletin message was wrong; let me tell you, faith, yes, is built on love and trust but the Faith also involves an acceptance of doctrines, of Church teachings, based on this love..and not on feelings). Our parishes are not based on activity first, on lunches and jokes and clapping first, but on the Eucharist, the love of God for us, on adoration and contemplation..and then, the active life of the parish emerges…from the worship, not preceding the worship or instead of the worship.

Undivided love toward God and neighbour is founded upon the mystery of the Eucharist, celebrated and adored. Heart of the Christian Life.

People have sometimes asked me how to homeschool, how to unschool. And people at church have sometimes asked me how I get my teens and older sons to mass, to live their faith.

I don’t.


I don’t homeschool as an addition to our life as a family, I spend time with my kids, I share books with my kids, we watch movies, we talk non stop. And thus our unschooling education has emerged from these activities, has grown an education, covering outcomes in a real, relevant, manner.

I don’t make the kids live their faith. I couldn’t could I? But we live our Faith, I live my Faith, my struggles and joys, we go to mass together, we experience beauty.

The saint is the person who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth as to be progressively transformed by it. Heart of the Christian Life

The heart of Jesus reaches out to us.

The heart of my family’s unschooling rests on this, on the Eucharist; and on the heart of the parent; the heart of the parent reaches out for the child, to make the child a priority, to do what is in the best interest of the family and the child.

Education in real life, for real life, with books and movies and talking.

With Faith.

With the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.

Let us pray to her, our holy Mother, so that she may help is to open our entire being, always more, to Christ’s presence; so that she may help us to follow him faithfully, day after day, on the streets of our life. Heart of the Christian Life

4 thoughts on “The Heart”

  1. Lovely post Leonie. I was touched by your words and description of your home/family. I felt a slightly renewed sense of energy in my own heart and mind just from reading your words.Bless you for posting and continuing to share 🙂

  2. I keep meaning to read Film Club–I heard a news story about it and it was among the reasons I chose to take Patrick out of hell, I mean high school. FYI–I have an unschooling post you might enjoy! Also, hows the son with the CD contract doing? How about a post?

  3. I think you'd like the book..btw written from a Christian perspective. You can check out Jonathon's band on Facebook – their page is The Bright Young Things, a reference to Evelyn Waugh

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