A solid message of the importance of family and faith interwoven throughout a sugary, sweet memoir
As I read The School of the Family
I found I agreed with all that author, Chantal R. Howard, had to say about home schooling, the current culture of our country, and the importance of strong families. Her insights and observations were right on. She shared many reasons for building and maintaining homes that foster strong, counter-cultural, Catholic relationships, attitudes, and values. Her reasons were fabulous. Her spiritual advice was solid, founded on a deep respect for, and understanding of, the Catholic Church and its teachings.
The book, though full of wisdom and insight, was first and foremost a personal memoir. Howard wove the message of the importance of strong families and solid catechesis into the story of her own family and her own experiences. The practical and spiritual advice came, always, through a personal reflection or memory of her growing up years. And though I could not have agreed more with the results of her upbringing, I found I was unable to truly relate to the family she wrote about. Howard did not deny the struggles her family faced over the years. Yet the picture she painted of her life growing up, even with the struggles and challenges, seemed a little too idyllic. I do not doubt that her stories were completely true. I just felt, at times, the presentation came across a little too sugar-coated, and a little sickeningly sweet.
For example, she shared about her discernment, at the age of ten, to leave home and pursue a dream to become an Olympic gymnast. Her story was intriguing but the mature spirituality and understanding she recounted from that tender age seemed to rival that of the greatest sage and wisest saint. Perhaps she really was that wise and that mature at ten years old, but, I had trouble relating.
So, in all honesty, I must admit, I did not love the book. However, because Howard’s message is one that is so sorely needed in this world, I still consider it worth reading. The “school of the family” is lacking in far too many homes and Howard truly understands and communicates the importance of restoring it. She writes eloquently about the ways that we, as Catholic parents, can create a truly Catholic culture in our homes and how we can raise our children to promote the values we believe in. She encourages strong marriages. She promotes reliance on the Church and, ultimately, on God and His mercy. Her message is one of my most valued beliefs. Strong faith and strong families are the key to building strong foundations for our children.