A Just War Theory of Homeschooling


 
Given the increasing popularity of homeschooling among faithful Catholics, it is vital that those who practice it — or are thinking about trying it for their children — have a fully Catholic understanding of the family and the nature and meaning of education. Without it, their good intentions can go astray, following the exaggerated individualism of the culture instead of the mind of the Church.
 
Some enthusiasts claim that homeschooling is the Catholic approach to a child’s education, but neither history nor the teaching of the Church supports this exclusivity. Though homeschooling is an important and virtuous pursuit, some families are drawn to it through a mistaken ideology — a shadow image of Catholic culture, Catholic education, and the family itself.
 

Catholic and Western tradition have always held that education is communal. Since man is a political or social animal — as Aristotle, Cicero, and St. Thomas Aquinas tell us — we must never neglect the communal dimension of education. Nothing short of complete family engagement — father, mother, and child — in the learning process will secure a proper education. Families may come to grave peril if fathers remain disengaged from their children’s education, or if other families are not sought out and some degree of inter-family education is attempted.
 
Of course, by this I do not mean something so simple as the "socialization" of students, which critics of homeschooling often throw at us — the old argument that if John and Mary do not have an opportunity to eat bologna sandwiches on the playground with 300 students and talk about Hannah Montana, they will grow up to be social deviants. The "value of socialization" is usually a code for the regimented ethic of pop culture, which has no virtue and is of no importance.
 
I mean something much more radical and (perhaps initially) more difficult for homeschoolers to accept: that education is for the perfection of the child, and the child is perfected for a life in society.
 
Stated more controversially: The common approach to homeschooling today is inherently dangerous, because it may go against what our entire Western tradition and the Catholic Church herself teach about the education of the young — that education should not be done in the home, at least not for long, except during a time and place of crisis.
                                                                
 
For many, perhaps the majority of Catholics, they are now in a time and place of crisis. Still, it is important to establish the norms of education, from which we can examine its various forms.
 
Let us consider three Church pronouncements. First, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical on education, Divini Illius Magistri:
 
Education is essentially a social and not a mere individual activity…. The family is an imperfect society, since it has not in itself all the means for its own complete development; whereas civil society is a perfect society, having in itself all the means for its particular end.
 
The Second Vatican Council’s document on Education, Gravissimam Educationis, affirms this social goal of education:
 
Education, the fathers wrote "is directed toward the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of that society to which he belongs and in the duties which he will, as an adult, have a share."
 
Most recently, the Church’s Compendium of Social Doctrine states:
 
Parents are the first educators, not the only educators, of their children. It belongs to them, therefore, to exercise with responsibility their educational activity in close and vigilant cooperation with civil and ecclesial agencies.
 
The Compendium goes on to describe the "primary importance" of parents working with "scholastic institutions" in the education of their children.
 
All these documents have wonderful sections setting forth the principles by which we educate our children as faithful Catholics. The documents clearly allow, and in some instances may indirectly encourage, homeschooling without mentioning it specifically. What’s more, they are critical of any form of education that jeopardizes the child’s moral and spiritual development.
 
Nevertheless, it is essential to keep in mind a simple truth: Homeschooling can also become a destructive ideology.
 
Contrary to the Catholic understanding of education, there is a rising individualism that is worming its way into our literature on homeschooling. Homeschooling in this nation was spearheaded by the hippies of the 1960s and has largely been embraced by Protestants; some 95 percent of homeschoolers today are Protestants, and the tone of the literature and materials often reflects that make-up.
 
More alarming, homeschooling has risen alongside home-churching. The "Non serviam" banner has long been unfurled by those who do not wish to recognize the sovereignty of Christ in the temporal or ecclesiastical order. Homeschooling at all levels is not rooted in either the Western tradition or — as the documents mentioned above illustrate — in the Catholic tradition. It is a proper response to a crisis within society and (we must be very sad to admit) within some quarters of the Church.
 
By analogy, war — justly pursued — is a legitimate response to a threat to a community’s life. Yet war is not a norm, even if it is regularly present or must be sustained for long periods. What I am calling for is a sort of "just war theory" of homeschooling. After all, we are engaged in the defense of hearth, home, and the families entrusted to us. Should we not also have carefully thought-out principles of education rooted in natural law, Scripture, and the Catholic tradition? Should we not also have an objective for this struggle beyond the solitary education of a child?
 
 
I see no end to the current crisis that calls for homeschooling, and I am glad that the principles of Catholic education allow it and encourage it as a vehicle for the good. Nevertheless, homeschoolers need to take steps to ensure that their education program preserves the goal of traditional teaching: the perfection of the person for God’s glorification and living a life of service and sanctification in human society.
 
The recognition that homeschooling is itself an emergency measure should offer much needed assistance to parents — especially mothers — who labor in the often exhausting task of being the principal, cafeteria staff, gym coach, bus driver, hall monitor, and (lest we forget) teacher of every subject. What’s more, the feelings of isolation and inadequacy so common to homeschooling parents should be recognized as the natural response to stress in the face of crisis. They point to something "unnatural" about the total education of the child at home: Homeschooling calls for a heroic life, but the Church has never held that it is necessary for parents to lead a heroic life in the pursuit of simple, natural things.
 
Biology and vocation do not always overlap. I have a vocation to marriage, which has borne fruit in children; and a vocation to teach, which has borne fruit in a life as a college professor. But the parenting of children does not secure the teaching vocation: My having participated in the creation of a son or daughter does not in itself authorize or prepare me for the teaching of geometry or history or Latin or any particular subject. By natural law and Church authority, I have a right to see to the proper moral education of my children — but that I have children does not endow us to be grammarians. My right to secure an education does not mean I have infused talents as an educator or rights to a teaching vocation.
 
Recalling and pursuing the communal dimension of education will do much to curb the tendency towards ideology. The following are three recommendations to support or reanimate our commitment to the communal nature of education:
 
1. Frequent Mass attendance. (Daily Mass is wonderful, but in many circumstances it is not an option.)
 
2. The formation of family educational "cells" — shared teaching, shared projects, swapping of class, regular art shows and contests between families, and pageants for the high holy days. As in most stressful endeavors, when the burden is shared it grows lighter. The homeschooling family thus can and should become the new foundation of the revitalization of Catholic schools.
 
3. A commitment to seeking stable co-operative meetings and classes within parishes when possible.
 
The key here is to maintain a positive desire to unite with other kindred families in the educational act (even if circumstances or prudence do not allow it). Education must remain communal in intent if it is to remain true to natural law and Catholic teaching. It goes without saying that Catholic families should pray for the restoration of Catholic schools; Catholic families should aspire to the noble role before them: the seed bed of schools. Again, consider Pius XI:
 
Since, however, the younger generations must be trained in the arts and sciences for the advantage and prosperity of civil society, and since the family of itself is unequal to this task, it was necessary to create that social institution, the school. But let it be borne in mind that this institution owes its existence to the initiative of the family and of the Church, long before it was undertaken by the State.
 
My wife and I homeschool, and I know personally that homeschooling can be filled with many joyful moments and graces (in addition to being a good way to form the child intellectually and spiritually). My own experience of teaching my children Latin, history, the Catechism, and natural history has been very rewarding. What is more, it has deepened my love for my children and my own appreciation and gratitude for my vocation as a father.
 
Thinking of homeschooling as a "just war" pursuit is perhaps dramatic, but the analogy may be necessary to make us take another look at our actions in this foundational area. Good parenting, even with intact and wholesome schools present, will always involve the parents in the education of their children.
 

William Edmund Fahey

By

Dr. William Edmund Fahey is President and Fellow of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

  • Austin

    If I had tried to teach my son BC Calculus and AP Chemistry, I would have done more harm than good. Some people can do it, and I am not one of them. I suspect this applies to a lot of us.

  • Darcy

    The claim that in the Catholic tradition “education should not be done in the home, at least not for long, except during a time and place of crisis,” is simply wrong. It is not even supported by the rest of the article. In order to be at all credible, and supported by the texts subsequently cited, the claim would have to be altered to say that in the Catholic tradition education should not be done exclusively in the home, at least not for long, except during a time and place of crisis.

  • Madey

    If it wasn’t for the fact that public schools (and even some Catholic schools) are openly hostile to or dissenting from Catholic teaching, there probably would not be homeschooling.

    No parent is worried that that their children will learn math, or language, or science at public schools. They are worried that their children will learn **the wrong faith and morals** at these institutions, and it is clearer than ever that the public schools (and to some degree the parochial schools) have robust agendas and curricula to repudiate Christian faith and morals. They are aggressive and openly hostile.

    What’s a parent to do, Mr. Fahey? Do you really think your word of caution has much meaning at this present time when public education aims to disparage everything Catholic? I think it does not. We’re in a serious crisis at the present time. Your caution here is like trying to teach good table manners to a person dying of starvation.

  • Jason Negri

    Mr. Fahey-

    I have problems with your characterization of homeschooling as being inconsistent with Catholic teaching & tradition, except in time of crisis. Today’s Catholic homeschoolers could give you multiple affirmative reasons for why we do it, and only some of them would be because of our current societal malaise. If homeschooling is not a normative part of Catholic history, that’s largely because many children didn’t necessarily “go” to school at all. Their formation took place in the home, the farms and the trade shop. Only a few bright kids went on to proper “school” at all, and these institutions were of course, outside the home. So the lack of a proud tradition in Western culture, whether Catholic or not, is no strike against the Catholic nature of this phenomenon we call homeschooling.

    More particularly, I’m uncomfortable with your use of a just war analogy for two reasons:

    1) The PR disaster that the homeschooling movement just got hit with by being likened to war in any way.

    2) Our purpose in homeschooling is, to carry the analogy, defensive. And you don’t ever fight a defensive war. We’re not trying to destroy the public school system as an enemy. Though we might not mind if it DID collapse, we homeschoolers don’t see our activities as striking a blow against the schools.

  • Ted Seeber

    In America, the reason given for public (socialized) schools has always been the formation of good citizenship (still is, even though this seems to have fallen down greatly as of late).

    Likewise, the Church, we often forget, is a monarchy- The Once and Future King Jesus Christ, his Vicar the Pope, all the way down to the parishioner in the pew, are members of the Kingdom of Heaven, Church Militant. Citizenship here is also important.

    Given the one big blessing of homeschooling- being able to be flexible with one’s schedules with the children- and the importance of that citizenship, I’d say it’s a duty of any Catholic Parent who is homeschooling to attend Daily Mass with the children. Think of it as citizenship class for the Church.

  • Ted Seeber

    If it wasn’t for the fact that public schools (and even some Catholic schools) are openly hostile to or dissenting from Catholic teaching, there probably would not be homeschooling.

    Absolutely agreed on this one. Though I’d argue that *strong moral teaching at home* could actually help this situation, at times I’m agreed that homeschooling is the solution.
    snip

    What’s a parent to do, Mr. Fahey? Do you really think your word of caution has much meaning at this present time when public education aims to disparage everything Catholic? I think it does not. We’re in a serious crisis at the present time. Your caution here is like trying to teach good table manners to a person dying of starvation.

    I’m surprised Mr. Fahey didn’t outright recommend, given the flexible schedule of the homeschooling parent, daily mass attendance with the children. This gives the children the *experience of citizenship* they need, as they become involved in parish life, and adds that socialization dimension that homeschoolers lack.

    It seems to me that is the obvious solution. In fact, bands of homeschooling parents from the same parish should think about going together to mass- perhaps even carpooling.

  • Ted Seeber

    2) Our purpose in homeschooling is, to carry the analogy, defensive. And you don’t ever fight a defensive war. We’re not trying to destroy the public school system as an enemy. Though we might not mind if it DID collapse, we homeschoolers don’t see our activities as striking a blow against the schools.

    Jason, it occurs to me that there’s a small problem with this statement, and oddly enough, it’s on the Just War side.

    I have to wonder- did your homeschooling, or any other schooling, include reading _City_of_God_ by St. Augustine of Hippo? His version of just war theory would state *exactly* the opposite of what you state here: the only Just War, to St. Augustine, was the defensive war- carried out on your own soil, against an invading enemy, with restrictions against going to your enemy’s country to take revenge.

    Thus “And you don’t ever fight a defensive war”, is in fact against the whole concept of the Just War theory- under Just War theory, *ALL* wars should be defensive only, never offensive, never pre-emptive. And you’re never trying to destroy your enemy utterly- only weaken him enough to shove him back across the border.

    So that makes me wonder if you’ve missed the point of the analogy- given the idea of homeschooling being a JUST war, instead of an UNJUST one, you wouldn’t be trying to destroy public schooling, you’d just be defending your family against it. And hopefully keeping the culture of, and citizenship in, the Church in mind while doing it.

  • Ted Seeber

    If I had tried to teach my son BC Calculus and AP Chemistry, I would have done more harm than good. Some people can do it, and I am not one of them. I suspect this applies to a lot of us.

    I’ve got a similar problem with my son, only in his case, it’s the reverse- I’m too smart and I keep trying to teach him things he’s not ready for, and due to his Cerebral Palsy clashing with my High Functioning Autism, may never be ready for.

    For that reason, I’m dependent on the public school system for trained professionals who work with these disabilities and know other ways to teach that get around the disability.

    I’m countering this with strong moral foundation at home, one that would be contraversial if I wasn’t a parent teaching only my son. I hope and pray it will work, but I can’t be sure.

  • TiredMom

    As a young Catholic mom who is just starting to interact with other Catholic parents, I am starting to get frustrated with the implications that I am failing my children if I do not do things a certain way. I was born with an epidural, never breastfed, and attended (Catholic) school. Though I am still a sinner, of course, I more or less turned out fine, and never even had a faith crisis in college! I suspect that the same is true for most other Catholic parents, homeschooling definitely not being in vogue when we were kids.

    I agree that Catholic parents are responsible for the moral education and development of their children, and are responsible for at least ensuring that they receive an ordinary education as well. I have no problem with people achieving this through homeschooling if that is best for them. My husband and I have tossed around the idea, though I am less than enthusiastic.

    But I also see the advantages that can arise from teaching my children to respond to those that they may encounter with differing viewpoints. Most kids, unless they go straight from their childhood home to being a married, stay-at-home parent, are going to have to defend their faith in the public arena, and that can be difficult if you don’t do it until you go away to college or start your first job. A public school, but even a Catholic school, with its students of varying backgrounds, can provide the venue for learning this important skill.

    Please, if you are a homeschooler, remember that not everyone has the option to do so, or that there is value to other methods of education. Our common goal is the good moral education of our children, and there are many ways to achieve this

  • GBurns

    “Catholic and Western tradition has always held that education is communal.” What does that mean?

    Actually in western culture education was not even thought of for the peasants. The nobility and wealthy educated their boys with private tutors. Later, they established private schools but again for boys only.

    Public high schools were created because teenage boys were not welcome in the work force and had to be contained somewhere.

    As for the Catholic Church. Christ, Himself taught people individually, in small groups and very large crowds. Nowhere did He build a school and staff it with teachers. Yes, the Church was responsible for developing and fostering the university system of education NOT elementary or high schools.

    The Catholic school system developed here in America because of the need to educate the children of immigrants who could not read or write English.

    None of these show that education should be “communal”. Last time I checked the family was communal. Father, mother and children are in communion with each other every day.

    While no one’s brain contains all knowlege it is not out of the realm of possibility that mom and dad will do a better job of securing an eduation for their children without the use of government institutions.

    As a certified teacher myself, I have seen the appalling text books used by schools. Take a look at what passes for a history book in schools today. You’ll be shocked. The math and science books contain outright errors that will never be corrected. The standardized test scores prove the inadequecy of the eduation being provided in schools now.

    As for religious education, even the USCCB recognizes the abyssmal state of religion books used in Catholic schools. When a large majority of students graduating from Catholic schools turn away from the faith what do you expect a loving, faithful parent to do?

    I belong to a large Catholic homeschooling group. We do share teaching responsibilities. We learn from and depend on one another to do the best for our children. I don’t know of any moms who are “isolating” their children. History shows that homeschooled children, when they grow up, are more involved in their communities than their institutionally graduated counterparts.

    Why are you crying “WOLF” about homeschooling when the very dangerous wolf is already in the brick and mortar schools.

    I thank God that He has given me the gift to homeschool. Please do not tell me that I am not abiding by His plan.

  • R.C.

    There are of course isolationist homeschoolers who retreat within the walls of their houses and never emerge.

    But they are by far the minority — increasingly, a tiny minority — in today’s homeschooling movement.

    Intelligent parents can, with effort, handle any course through at least seventh grade by themselves. But — unknown perhaps to folk who aren’t homeschooling — they usually don’t have to. Myriad programs exist, from homeschooling associations which make use of parents with special skills as “resource” teachers, to community programs to provide additional science or arts facilities to homeschoolers.

    And some people seem sadly unaware of a hot trend in quasi-homeschooling, the University-Model School. This system uses the same facility — often a church facility that doesn’t have any use for its “Sunday School” classrooms during the week — for both upper-grade and lower-grade classrooms, by having the younger kids’ classes meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the older kids on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The teachers set the curriculum, but the parents lead the kids through the curriculum on any days when the kid isn’t in class (that is, three days a week for young kids, two days a week for older). It’s called “University Model” because kids needn’t sign up for a “full load”; they can take, say, science, history, and an elective through the school, while taking their English and mathematics purely at home (or vice versa).

    The result is less work for the homeschooling parent, plenty of social interaction…but with other homeschooled kids, which is to say, generally, kids who’re more disciplined and well-behaved than typical public school kids, who’ve been “socialized” into a culture glorifying sloth, vanity, indiscipline, and immodesty at an early age.

    And, because the same facility is used, in effect, for two sets of kids in a single week, the cost to the parent is considerably lower than for a typical private school. (Ours is roughly $1,500 a semester for an 8:30-to-3:30 “full load.” Not chump change, but not half-bad.)

    All of this is to say: The trends in homeschooling are all in the direction of more social interaction, not less, than is found in public schools. True, a public school puts the kids in a classroom with a lot more bodies of exactly the same age.

    But the homeschooled kid gets a lot of time with just parents, a lot of time with siblings, a lot of time with same-aged kids, a lot of time with different-aged kids (sometimes in a kid-to-kid mentor/assistant), a lot of time with other kids in adjunct programs, a lot of time with private tutors.

    The only thing missing, really, is time spent with unruly peers away from adequate supervision, and time being instructed according to government-mandated curricula written with the assistance of Planned Parenthood.

    So, yes, there is a social dimension to education. And yes, homeschooled kids thirty years ago probably weren’t getting enough of it. But no, homeschooled kids now aren’t experiencing the same problem, since the vast number of them has made adjunct programs and University Model Schooling and community enrichment programs and associations so much more feasible.

    So this article is really a bit off target. It’s mostly true, yet mostly unnecessary.

    Something we could really use is a cautionary commentary on the woefully perverse kind of “socialization” the unfortunate waifs in the public schools suffer…but then, the rapidly-swelling ranks of the homeschoolers, academically outperforming their government-schooled counterparts at nearly every turn, are a commentary of sorts, no?

  • Ted Seeber

    I thank God that He has given me the gift to homeschool. Please do not tell me that I am not abiding by His plan.

    I think you too, have missed the point of the article. Just War for defense of your nation is always abiding by God’s Plan, likewise Homeschooling in defense of your children is most certainly abiding by God’s Plan.

    But that doesn’t mitigate the danger of individualism, especially in America where individualism has almost become a heresy equal to secular humanism (and related, I think, after reading some of the essays of Paul Lutus, a philosopher and computer programmer who was rather famous in the early days of home computing) that homeschooling entails.

    It seems to me a good answer for that, would be Daily Mass as a class for any homeschooling family. That would at least raise questions that would defeat any attempt at individualism to creep in, especially since once every three years or so one would have to deal with questions about Matthew 25, James Chapter 2, or certain passages from the Book of Acts that are directly against individualism.

  • Mary’s Fool

    I have chewed on this article all day, and now, that our family’s homeschool lessons are done, I feel ready to respond.

    I come away from this article with the sense that Mr. Fahey has written this article in reaction to a particular, specific sort of homeschooler- the one that educates in near isolation. The sort that doesn’t belong to or engage with local HS groups, doesn’t tap into local cultural offerings, doesn’t enroll children in outside activities of any sort- in short, Mr. Fahey seems to be writing about a very rare sort of homeschooler in order to avoid being painted with the same brush.

    I think that saying homeschool is a non-communal form of education, and then holding up the rare and disordered example given above as evidence is disingenuous and unfair.

  • Thomas Casey

    Considering that the Church (at least in my area) gave in to the secular culture long ago, I’d say that drastic measures are in order; why take advice from people who don’t have as much to lose as you do?

    Another generation of lukewarm Catholics (including clergy) and we won’t need to discuss any of this.

  • Marchmaine

    Dr. Fahey, thank you for your lucid and well reasoned thoughts.

    It is indeed important to keep before us home-schoolers the fact that we labor in the absence of Catholic culture and that though our work may be necessary and good, it is not the ideal.

    I think the sentiment and cautionary tale Dr. Fahey is trying to convey is the one put forth by Robert E. Lee at the battle of Fredicksburg (just to keep the War motif in the picture): “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.”

    Let us not grow so fond of Home-schooling that we neglect (or worse, subvert) a revitalization of Catholic education in America.

    Though I do suspect the topic is too subtle for these here internets.

  • Austin

    When my children were in school [Catholic Schools], I noticed that the students learn not only from the teachers, but from each other. The smarter kids challenge each other and learning can become a bit competitive. When my son was a junior and senior in high school, there was a lot of tough but friendly competition to see who could get into which colleges: he got into Penn, a classmate into Duke, another into Cornell, etc.
    If he had been homeschooled, I am not sure we would have seen that kind of academic performance.

    The homeschoolers do well, but can they get really “high octane? without the challenge of intense compeititon and the ability to learn from each other as well as the teachers?

  • Michael Baruzzini

    I too am puzzled by the assertion that education has historically been communal in Western culture. The practice of every child in a society receiving a formal education has only existed for about the past century and a half or so. Before that, only a small segment of society got any general formal education at all. The vast majority of people were educated at home and in the workshops or fields of their parents — they were homeschooled.

  • Matthew from Texas

    Taking a different angle from the comments above, I would like to add that much of the homeschooling movement is reactionary to the present day cutlure and is actually helping to create educational opportunities in the virtual classroom. My children are enrolled, through the public school sytem of Texas, in a home based virtual school called the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest. The curriculum is based on the very successful K12 program, also found in many other states. 90-95% of the school work is done at home with the guidance of a teacher. All assignments and progress are tracked online and tutoring from the teacher is availabe if needed. There are many online virtual classroom opportunities and we also get together with other “virtual” families in our parish and hometown. Of course, we are allowed to include Catechisim at are own discretion.

    I always felt frustrated because of the tension between public educators and homeschoolers. We often looked at each other with suspicion and judgment. The Virual Academy has finally brought the two together to create, not an either/or attitude, but a cooperate attitude. Why can’t public or class based educators help home schoolers? Well the future is finally here. I believe the reactionary movement of homeschoolers will continue to pave the way for an ever changing and dynamic growth in virtual schooling.

  • Mark

    Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

  • laura

    I wonder what inspired this article? As another commenter noted, it seems aimed at isolationist-type homeschoolers. While I can’t pretend I have any statistics on all catholic home schooling families, of the many I know in many states with many different family circumstances, I can’t think of any who fit this stereotype. Maybe they’re all hiding?

    As for the communal nature of education, this is satisfied in the home by the parent/teacher meeting minds with the child. Often enough the home will include four or more people – in large families the home can seem like a small city! But surely the author doesn’t mean to argue that the more people the better the education – then we would be obligated to seek out the largest schools with the largest class sizes, and that more often than not creates a more difficult learning environment.

    I think that issue of community is separate from the issue of preparing our children to participate in society. If a child can function properly in the home, the groundwork is laid to function in society. Incidentally, I attended public schools with many poor souls who seemed to barely make it through the day and have no idea how to “fit in,” dear things, though they were in school every bit as much as I was. A catholic in society has little to do with understanding how to seem “normal,” rather it is a matter of valuing the dignity of our fellow man, having concern for their eternal destiny, and having a healthy sense of personal responsibility and work ethic, all things that can be learned in the home.

    Lastly, every home schooling family I know jumps at chances to get together for social and cultural opportunities. Who are these homeschoolers that you are trying to convert?

    Oh, and one more thing for good measure – unless the caliber of the average bishop changes dramatically in the next ten years, I’ll never pay to send my kids to “catholic” schools. It seems like a rather long war.

  • Aaron

    I think R.C. said it best with, “mostly true and mostly unnecessary.” The kind of homeschooling that’s being described here wouldn’t be a good thing, but it also doesn’t really exist that I know of, except in a few isolated cases. The amount of concern here seems out of proportion to the problem.

    My wife and I plan to homeschool (unschool, technically), and that would still be the case even if we magically brought back the supposed great public schools of 60 years ago. We’ll do it because we understand that real learning is something you do, not something that’s done to you. Keeping them out of school is the best way we’ll be able to give them the opportunity to learn in a way that will stick with them longer than the next test.

    In the process, our kids will be around other adults and kids while at church, while participating in groups like 4-H that we approve of, when business clients come around, when we walk in the neighborhood, and so on. They’ll be much more broadly socialized than we were, sitting there in a classroom (public or parochial) with the same 25 other kids, day after day, year after year.

  • Vicki

    The danger in Catholic homeschooling is that it become an ideology. I’ll call it ‘homeschoolism’; an ugly word and an ugly concept. And the danger is real. When homeschooling ceases to become a valid option (with all its practical pros & cons) and becomes a matter of principle, then it has gone too far.

    I say this as someone involved in Catholic homeschooling for 25 years. I have seen up close the spectacle of a wonderful parish being bitterly divided by ‘homeschoolists’ – so intent on justifying their individual choices that they are willing to rob others of theirs.

    When C.S.Lewis, in ‘The Screwtape Letters’, spoke of dividing Christians along ideological lines – “Christianity and Spelling Reform” – he had no idea how close to the bone he was cutting.

  • Tony Esolen

    I hesitate to take issue with the estimable Dr. Fahey, but I’d say that one of the great and unintended consequences of homeschooling, such as it is usually practiced, is the development of communities of friends, not only cooperating in the education of their children, but getting together also to celebrate and to pray. It is not ideal — because the families typically do not live near one another, and so do not see one another every day or even more than several times a month at best. And yet, how often do families who send their children to school, whether public or private, get to know one another? I have seen children grow up alongside children in other families, playing on swings and slides and monkey bars as little children, then growing older and “graduating” to reading the same books, or taking up similar hobbies, or playing together on the football field or the baseball field. It is, I think, incontestable that if you are homeschooling your children and you are NOT meeting families, or sharing ideas, or playing together, then you have gone out of your way to keep yourselves alone — or so it is in the densely populated northeast at least.

    It is true that schooling is meant in part to make the child a citizen of a town, or a country, but the schools no longer achieve that aim, not at all; and homeschoolers, at least those who understand that they need to stand together, have the opportunity to make up for that loss.

    I’ve been wondering, too, just how horrible the schools have to be, and that includes the so-called Catholic schools, before Christians of all sorts begin that mass exodus that alone can revive not only education but something like village and town life.

  • Ann

    A very thoughtful post! I agree that homeschooling can be isolating. Catholic commitment to social justice calls for support of public schools, which are a rung to success for many children. I’m very supportive of both homeschooling and public schooling. Many children these days are “cyberschooling”, i.e. working through public schools online from home. I think that in the future some creative blends of home *and* public schooling will be available.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    I enjoyed reading this article and the comments. My husband and I considered home-schooling but concluded that, given our urban environment (San Francisco), good choices of schools and character of children (and mother) it was not the preferred method. Dr. Fahey’s article does surface a fact we did not articulate but certainly was present in our discerning: a presumption in favor of communal schools with professional teachers (which I am not). One favorable observation is that our kids have acquired a street-wise urban savvy (including content I would lovingly have shielded from them), but that was the choice we made and not obviously for everyone. One negative observation has been the number of socially challenging situations where we’ve encountered home-schooling kids who, not at all by intent or malice, have a sense of “uniqueness” that does not sit well with kids who float and sink among their peers on a daily basis. One child would not say the Our Father with us before a meal because she only said it in Latin. She was a beautiful, delightful little girl, completely innocent in her protestations – and her Mom is a wonderful, special, bright woman! I personally have never had the least tension with home-schooling moms (probably because I envy them a tad!) but I’ve had to help my kids understand why home-schooling kids, or home-schooled kids now mainstreaming, might not have their same sense of “cool” and peer awareness. Terrific to see this topic discussed and “don’t mess with me I’m just starting the year” and “TiredMom” remind me how much I love to be part of the community of Catholic Moms who can laugh, scold and articulately explain … all within a single paragraph!

  • Ann

    I can’t imagine my childhood without school, I really can’t. And I would never take that experience away from my children.

    In our state, property taxes decimated the Catholic school system to a point that it has become unattractive due to the long distances involved. So public school it is.

    However, we did choose our town carefully, one in which at least 80% of the folks are Catholic. So our public school world and our parish world are one. And what do I see? I see a lot of families just like ours. Good families, who are trying their hardest to raise good children with a strong sense of faith, to be the best that they can be.

    Sure it’s messy and imperfect, but so is life.

  • Mena

    Ann, how did you find an area with 80% Catholics? That’s a great public school solution, but I’m not sure I could find a public school situation with any such similar demographic.

    Is there some resource that keeps track of Catholic demographics by state or town? If so, I’d like to have it for use.

    Thanks!

  • James

    We are just starting to navigate the schooling issue, so this article couldn’t have been better timed.

    I especially like your mention of educational ‘cells’ or cooperatives, as this is how we’d educate our children in my ideal world. Ideally, I’d love to find a group of Catholic families to share resources and gain efficiencies. If we took a portion of the money we’d spend on Catholic school and pooled it, I’d wager we could find a great teacher(s) to teach our pool of children as a group. The pay would be a bit less, most likely, but there’d be a ton of benefits to offset the lower pay, including more parental involvement, more flexibility, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for the piece and the thoughtful comments.

  • Christopher Manion

    I have been an admirer of Dr. Fahey since his days at Christendom, so I take him seriously.

    Is honeschooling an

  • Hess Family

    When homeschooling ceases to become a valid option (with all its practical pros & cons) and becomes a matter of principle, then it has gone too far.

    I say this as someone involved in Catholic homeschooling for 25 years. I have seen up close the spectacle of a wonderful parish being bitterly divided by ‘homeschoolists’ – so intent on justifying their individual choices that they are willing to rob others of theirs.

    Hi Vicki:

    Could you expound on this a bit? How did the homeschoolers interfere with folks whose kids were in public school? There must be an instructive story here.

    Thanks and cheers,

    Hess Family

  • Ann

    Hi Mena,

    80% is my estimate. Every family on my street with children is Catholic, as well as most of the other folks. Basically, I just figured it out from living here and growing up here.

    I live in a Northeast state, so we don’t have the high evangelical population. I could also tell a bit by the percentage of the population that is white and Latino population (since most Catholics are white and Latino). The size of the parish is another indicator. It’s a large church house and they have four Masses on Sunday to accomodate every one. The only other two churches in town are mainline Protestant and they are tiny, like seating 100 people at their max, with one service on Sunday. In addition, there is no temple in town, or nearby, the closest one is at least 8 miles. It’s also known as a very Italian and Polish town.

    So basically, just by putting everything together from living here for so long I could figure it out.

  • Jessica

    Mark wrote: Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

    Probably not, not in the way that you mean. The only piece of Christ’s education that we see in the bible is Him asking questions of the elders. He was most likely educated in the temple. Does that mean that Mary didn’t teach him the usual things that Moms teach their sons – manners, morality, colors, shapes, etc.? Of course she taught him those things.

    The motivation behind this question is exactly what Dr. Fahey is warning us against. There is no biblical, divine or ecclesial mandate to homeschool.

    A distinction does have to be made between the kind of education that normally happens in the home, and formal education.

  • Jessica

    Mark wrote: Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

    Probably not, not in the way that you mean. The only piece of Christ’s education that we see in the bible is Him asking questions of the elders. He was most likely educated in the temple. Does that mean that Mary didn’t teach him the usual things that Moms teach their sons – manners, morality, colors, shapes, etc.? Of course she taught him those things.

    The motivation behind this question is exactly what Dr. Fahey is warning us against. There is no biblical, divine or ecclesial mandate to homeschool.

    A distinction does have to be made between the kind of education that normally happens in the home, and formal education.

  • Jessica

    Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

    Probably not, not in the way that you mean. The only piece of Christ’s education that we see in the bible is Him asking questions of the elders. He was most likely educated in the temple. Does that mean that Mary didn’t teach him the usual things that Moms teach their sons – manners, morality, colors, shapes, etc.? Of course she taught him those things.

    The motivation behind this question is exactly what Dr. Fahey is warning us against. There is no biblical, divine or ecclesial mandate to homeschool.

    A distinction does have to be made between the kind of education that normally happens in the home, and formal education.

  • Chrissy G

    A few of the comments here have mentioned homeschooling families (whether specifically Catholic ones or otherwise) banding together for support, shared resources, and access to specialized educators. I don’t understand why, if there is a large group of Catholic families willing to put time and money into the proper education of their children, they don’t demand the attention of the parochial school system. These homeschooling parents are the caring, involved parents who, if they entered into the parochial school system, could be revitalizing the education of ALL the local Catholic children, instead of just their own. These parents could be the heads of the PTA, the recess and lunch monitors, the coaches and club supervisors.

    In my mind, the best solution to being more involved in your children’s education isn’t to keep them home with you, but to go to school with them. I suppose not all Catholic schools are as friendly toward parent involvement as mine were, but it would seem to me that for financial reasons alone, most have plenty of roles that a volunteering parent can fill. The best way to have solid Catholic education of children, is for solid Catholics to take over the parochial school system.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not even married yet, so I am speaking as a former student and, hopefully, future parent.)

  • Ted Seeber

    Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

    Well, yes and no. Under Jewish custom at that time, only to the age of 5 or 6- first grade level. Then he would have had three schools to go to; a religious school to learn Hebrew, a trade school to learn elementary Greek and his numbers, and after that he would have been apprenticed to his adopted father Joseph as a Carpenter.

    The alternative Gnostic childhood gospels say that between six and 9 he showed amazing insight into the meanings behind symbols, and even worked a miracle or two. Between 9 and 20 he was apprenticed as a Carpenter, and supposedly as late as 150 A.D. one of the Early Church Fathers claimed to have a farmer still using a plow designed and built by Christ. Between the ages of 20 and 31, there are even more fanciful (and contradictory) stories of him traveling, perhaps to India or England. But by no means did he stick with only home schooling past early childhood.

  • Mark

    All educational methods have pros and cons.
    Public school maximizes resources and exposes a child to the broadest segment of the polity, but it exposes the child to those segments which are the worst influences.
    Private schools can combine education with religion, but they are often soft on the religion aspect. Moreover, they have become exceedingly expensive and often harbor a very materialistic culture even if they have a very orthodox/faithful surface sheen.
    Homeschooling has many benefits which the commenters have nicely spelled out here, but there are also drawbacks. Dr. Fahey has done us all a favor by highlighting one of the most common pitfalls of homeschooling. Even for those families who participate in activities, co-ops, and other social groups, they (we) still live a seperate existance from the rest of the culture and we ignore that potential risk at our family’s peril.

    We should be vigilant about the cons of our educational choices regardless of how we choose to educate our kids or if we think we are immune to an particular threat.

  • Michael Baruzzini

    I don’t understand why, if there is a large group of Catholic families willing to put time and money into the proper education of their children, they don’t demand the attention of the parochial school system. These homeschooling parents are the caring, involved parents who, if they entered into the parochial school system, could be revitalizing the education of ALL the local Catholic children, instead of just their own. These parents could be the heads of the PTA, the recess and lunch monitors, the coaches and club supervisors.

    Because there is more to homeschooling (or individualized, tutor-style education) than just the content — there is also the form. For example, even a student at an orthodox, rigourous Catholic school must learn Augustine from 9:00 to 9:30, and Algebra from 9:30 until 10:00, and Biology from 10:00 until 10:30, and so forth. Nevermind that he has just been profoundly moved by a passage in Augustine that he really needs time to ponder — the bell’s rung, time to forget it and move along. American schooling is run like Henry Ford would run it. It’s an assembly line, frequently even at good Catholic schools.

    As an adminstrator at an academically rigorous, “traditional” public charter school, and having been homeschooled myself, I’ve seen both sides. At best, I believe the traditional schooling model leads the average student to be more educated and disciplined than he would otherwise be, by not allowing students to waste time like they naturally would want to. The traditional school model also, however, limits the truly motivated student from getting as profound an education as he otherwise could by forcing his learning to work like a factory, bell-to-bell, rather than developing organically.

    It may not be for everyone, and I don’t blame those who don’t homeschool, but I do know that my own education would have greatly suffered were I not homeschooled, precisely because I would not have been able to delve as deeply into subjects as I wanted to.

  • FamilyMan

    I promise to go back and re-read the article again, but a few points first, from the vantage point of being a Catholic homeschooling father of 8 (ages 25 to 3) in our 18th year now:

    1) Homeschooling is the only way to be an active part of your child’s learning experiences, good and bad. Try to follow your public/private student through school and their activities all day.

    2) Homeschooling generates 20+% higher test results across the board than their public/private counterparts.

    3) Homeschooling has been predominantly pushed by Protestants–completely true. Their efforts and those of organizations like the Home School Legal Defense Association have secured it as a right for families in every state to use (unlike the early days when the government was able to dictate every step of the process, IF it was allowed at all).

    4) It would be almost impossible to homeschool without the interaction of other instructors–but that sure doesn’t mean a school! Libraries, Scouts, volunteer work, and more are a regular staple of the homeschool life.

    5) People need to quit being afraid of calculus and chemistry. If you didn’t learn it the first time, you only have to stay a day ahead of your student. The education of the parent is an incredible side benefit of the homeschool process. Virtually all of the parents homeschooling how were schooled in public or private schools. Take a class at a community college, or have your child take one there when the time is right (16-1smilies/cool.gif–IF they need it. The vast majority of high school and college students either don’t take calculus and chemistry or pass with minimal grades.

    6) Studies have shown that the education level and income level of the parents is irrelevant to the outcome–20%+ over their non-homeschooled peers. [Students who have special needs are also usually better served, but not always–that requires greater examination from the parents.]

    Our personal results have shown a 2 kids who have grown up and gotten married (5th grandchild on the way, thanks!), one who was a National Merit Scholar (the only one in our county in the past 7 years), and another who was president of the local community college’s student body, and now a junior thriving at a public university.

    As our youngest is 3, we’ll be doing this for another 15 years–gladly.

    My observation of our catholic schools and colleges (small “c” indeed) is that they do not offer the backbone to be really different from their secular counterparts. Of course, there are exceptions, but do you really want to throw your child out there to find out if your school is the exception?

    Just because 2 nuns plus 3 nuns equals 5 nuns, doesn’t make it a Catholic education.

    Be not afraid. Courage and confidence are all you need–and a good library card.

  • FamilyMan
  • LifeObserver

    Honesty, I have not met or heard of any homeschoolers that match the writers negative description.

    We’re a homeschooling family, have been for the past 17 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that homeschooling is the best thing for children, putting them in an institutionalized school is second best. This is not to degrade parents who put their children in institutions, rather I realize some parents, as they admit themselves often, have little desire to teach their children at home, in that case then, I agree, they should not.

    It seems perhaps putting children in institutional schools is like putting children in daycare, both are second best, and some kids are better off in institutionalized daycare, or school, if the parent can’t bear to have them around all day or they work all day. I don’t begrudge them for it, I know raising children can be hard.

    There is nothing in Catholic teaching, that I’m aware of, which would explicity prove wrong the thought that institutional schools are second best to homeschooling. If there is, I’d be happy to look it over.

  • athelia

    I don’t understand why, if there is a large group of Catholic families willing to put time and money into the proper education of their children, they don’t demand the attention of the parochial school system. These homeschooling parents are the caring, involved parents who, if they entered into the parochial school system, could be revitalizing the education of ALL the local Catholic children, instead of just their own. These parents could be the heads of the PTA, the recess and lunch monitors, the coaches and club supervisors.

    In my mind, the best solution to being more involved in your children’s education isn’t to keep them home with you, but to go to school with them. I suppose not all Catholic schools are as friendly toward parent involvement as mine were, but it would seem to me that for financial reasons alone, most have plenty of roles that a volunteering parent can fill. The best way to have solid Catholic education of children, is for solid Catholics to take over the parochial school system.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not even married yet, so I am speaking as a former student and, hopefully, future parent.)

    I can tell you why, Chrissy.

    Our children attended a highly-regarded Catholic school; I and my husband were active in many volunteer roles; our children were academic achievers. We were the family every school — Catholic or otherwise — wants to have and keep.

    And the administration would not/could not do justice by our children. It was an issue of academics and recognition of God-given gifts. It was also an issue of money and where it would be spent (and where it therefore could not be spent).

    In order to do justice to the images and liknesses of God for which we have temporal responsibility, we pulled our children from that school (very quietly) and began home schooling.

    There were a handful of families with the same situation. There were not enough of us to “demand” anything from the school; the vast majority of families were fat and happy right where they were.

    We “demanded” academic excellence for our particular images and likenesses of God by home schooling at their level of ability. My 13-year-old taught himself calculus just for fun; I double dog dare you to show me the institutional school (Catholic or not) that could do justice for such a child. We would probably have done the same thing if it had been a government school (perish the thought). It’s the nature and limitations of the institutional structure that is the problem for our family.

    Do we teach Catholic religious ed as part of our mission? You betcha. Our kids routinely ace their September pre-tests at CCD. We make them attend because we are a 6% minority in our region and we want our kids to be around other Catholic kids on a regular basis. Daily Mass? I just wish. Catholic community formation in our “isolated” home? You betcha. Just this morning we had a discussion on the political, ethical, and theological aspects of the day’s vocabulary word — euthanasia. Two lessons (or would that be three) for the price of one. Just one of the many side benefits of Catholic home education culture.

    Bottom line: No institution short of university will be able to do justice to all our children’s education needs. Home schooling allows us to meet ALL their needs and gifts — now, not in 5 years, when we’ve founded a “better” school — whether by my personal tutoring, someone else’s personal tutoring, coop opportunities, specific coursework at the public high school, or the local university. Join the PTA as a solution to our children’s problems with institutions? Sheeeeyah … you’re making me laugh.

  • Johnnyjoe

    EASILY the best response to the article.

    As a homeschool father of 5, with one out of college (Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, CA), one in college (Wyoming Catholic College, Lander, WY), and three at home, I found the suppositions by Mr. Fahey disturbing and off the mark. Perhaps in my limited experience I lack the ability to worry about the same boogeymen.

    It should be obvious that homeschooling is not for everyone – relatively few are doing it, though it is growing.

    It should be obvious that homeschooling is superior – not necessarily because of the “education”, for our children are always subject to inheriting the short-comings of their parents – but because children get to spend more time with mom and dad. Period. If the goal of “raising children” is to help them learn to be adults, then they should spend as much time with adults as they can.

    We live in a culture that STEALS childhood. We live in a culture that – a some level – actually dislikes children. The culture “consumes” them, in essence. The take our time, they take our “freedom”, they “tie us down”….

    What a terrific benefit it has been for us to look up from the headaches and stress of homeschooling and realize the we KNOW our children! We have become adult friends with these gifts God gave us – the Gifts He used to shape us into something we could not imagine we could become.

    We came to homeschooling from flaccid and hetrodox “catholic” education, so I suppose my understanding of what “good” Catholic schools might be would be limited. I only know we have strove to create one, and we rely on God for our strength and guidance in that endeavor. I don’t think we are revolutionaries, but to be a Christian – an authentic Catholic Christian – in this culture I suppose is certainly “radical”.

  • William Fahey

    Well, I must admit that my first foray into cyber journalism has been interesting. I shall need to be more attentive to my writing since some of the readers seem to conclude that I hold the opposite of what I was trying to state. I appreciate all the insights and comments.

    The article is not meant as an attack on homeschooling. I delivered a longer lecture (from which this is drawn) at a homeschooling conference and I speak and write as a homeschooling parent–a happy one at that.

    The article is against the ideology that can and is fashioned from homeschooling. Again, I am not saying (far from it) that homeschooling is an ideology.

    My intent in this portion of the talk was to encourage two things: one, the establishment of a realistic foundation for homeschooling, rather than a giddy one that– in my observation of homeschooling communities and conversations with pastors among them– has left many parents feeling that there was something wrong with them as a parent for not finding homeschooling easy; or that, if they did not homeschool, they were not good Catholics.

    Second, I hoped to encourage those involved in homeschooling towards an evangelistic end and to encourage them to contribute proudly (or realize more concretely the contributions they are already making) to the re-establishment of a Catholic culture.

    My suggestion is that homeschooling should be understood and undertaken in light of the larger Catholic intellectual and educational tradition, something unknown amongst many homeschooling families. Indeed, one prominent homeschooling company in its literature to families has cut out sections of Magisterial documents (such as the one that I quote from Pius XI) that speak of the social nature of man, the involvement of other parts of society in the education of children, or the value of schools. This cut-and-paste approach to the Magisterium seems to approach ideology.

    In speaking of homeschooling, I am not speaking of all the formation and guidance that parents naturally give to their children in the home (basic catechesis, family history, that initial stock of poetry and song, good manners, etc.), but only the formal project of homeschooling according to a curriculum and with courses similar to a conventional school.

    On the issue of educational history, therefore, education should be understood in my article as formal. Such formal schooling or education has been (for those who were able to receive an education) largely communal since the Greeks. I recognize that widespread education is recent and in some sense a result of anti-Catholic and coercive action on the part of the government. I was not looking at the process of making a society literate, but the context in which formal education has been traditionally pursued.

    Nor I am happily endorsing all schools. Public schools (where most Catholics are educated) are often fraught with peril. Parish schools are often worse in their betrayal of the Faith. Still, I should hope the Catholic response would involve an impulse to restore and build institutions when the time comes, not simply separate and distrust them. Again, as Tony Esolen rightly points out, the homeschooling movement is on the path to building new and healthy communities. I agree; and I was calling for some heightened determination in establishing the ends of the whole project.

    That said, I do find a tendency amongst some homeschoolers to discount school (parish or independent) as an option or as a good. Attention and due praise is owed to independent schools, such as St. Gregory

  • William Fahey

    Prof. Mannion makes excellent distinctions in the use of the terms “state” and “society” (which are largely lost to those who operate solely in either a classical discourse, where state and society are conflated, or the modern discourse, where state can easily be limited to government and its apparatus. I am in agreement with his caution (perhaps suspicion) of the modern state and admit, as a classicist that I often understand the word

  • Michael

    I know a family that Wm. Fahey speaks about, one of those homeschool families that so many of you “have never met.” I live in a rural area and there are a small handful of homeschool families in the area, ours being one of them. One of the other families has some rather extreme tendencies towards isolationism. They are Catholic and eschew anything that smacks of the secular world. They do not want their kids to go to college because of the fear that the children would be exposed to evil things. (But what about good Catholic colleges you say? Good question…) They want to have a large plot of land where they can build houses for all of the kids to build their houses so that they can all live safely together, secluded from the outside world. The parents in this family can see no reason why anyone should not homeschool their children and they rabidly promote the cause in a manner that, frankly, is embarrassing. It’s just craziness and in this case, I can completely understand where Mr. Fahey is coming from.

    That having been said, I can honestly say that we would still homeschool our kids even if this present darkness in our world didn’t exist, for all the reasons that FamilyMan stated so well above. And while we are sure to expose our kids to enriching cultural events and activities outside the home (we are FAR from isolationistic) there is simply no better place to educate one’s kids than in the home.

  • Anon

    Wow. What a weird set of responses! So many seemed to respond to issues not addressed in the original article (impressions of homeschoolers, negative or positive) while the article itself seemed to criticize a unique and rare form of homeschooling, however the author later sought to clarify.

    Rejecting poor local schools is one reason to homeschool, whether for academic or moral reasons. However, ask the most adamant advocates of traditional schooling what is needed to make schools better, what the absolute ideal system would look like and two things always rise to the top of the list: class size and parent involvement. (Individualized curriculum is a third). Those are a given in homeschooling. They can obviously be undermined if parents are not called to be teachers or if they operate in a weird way, isolated from all contact with society or other forms of thought, so homeschooling isn’t for everyone and there will always remain room for traditional schools. However, if the parents are good teachers, are involved with their family in society, etc., then homeschooling an ideal option, even from a purely secular/educational perspective. Homeschooling doesn’t have to exist merely as a reaction against something that isn’t working; I see it as an ideal learning environment that can benefit individuals, families, and any society that values the ability to think over the ability to conform. (As a local homeschooling mom recently noted, homeschooling doesn’t create weird or quirky children, it allows them to be who they already are, rather than force them to conform to a potentially unhealthy “norm.”)

    Example: My four year old is reading and writing, fascinated by entomology, and uses words like “ontological” in correct context. Should I wait for a full year to send her to kindergarten, even in one of the highest ranked school districts anywhere, so that she can be taught which letter sounds go with which word and how to behave according to group/teacher needs? I’d rather continue as we are, with a combination of in-home topics (unschooled with broad goals), a co-op teacher once a week with five other kids, a once-a-week hike with four other homeschool families (and a loose curriculum goal), independent classes in science, karate, ballet, and art, religious education through the parish, etc. We’re intimately connected to our neighborhood in a way that the rigorous schedule of traditional schooling doesn’t allow and we promote learning in a fun and continuous context with the goal of creating lifetime learners who can contribute in many valuable ways as they approach adulthood.

    As a parent, Catholic, and professional educator, I find any argument against homeschooling bizarre and rooted – like many of these responses – in ignorance. I admit that it is making me feel rather like a “hero” – in the sense used by someone in a previous post with a negative connotation. I work two part time jobs to contribute desperately needed finances to our home while also teaching my children. That said, I don’t see it as a negative, but a way to savor the relationship that I have with the amazing people I am blessed to call my children.

  • Matthew Mehan

    Dr. Fahey,

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. As a young parent in a lengthy discussion with a number of other young parents regarding whether to homeschool our children or not, this is a welcome meditation–or, should I say, call to arms!

    To start, I have little or no intention of homeschooling my sons beyond 3rd grade. And here is a distinction: in the history of western education, boys were never thought of as scholastically educable before roughly the age of a modern day 3rd-grader. Roman republic, Roman empire, medieval Europe–that was basically the consensus. The beginning of formal education has been inching backward to the point now that pre-K (Kindergarten being a late modern German invention), when a child is 3 and 4 years old is considered the norm. Homeschooling one’s 3, 4, 5, and 6-year-old does not, I would offer, fall under your just war theory. That is, I do not think that formal education is useful before roughly that age and that it has not been considered so throughout the tradition. If this is correct, then homeschooling in these youngest of modern era “school age” years is not any kind of emergency. Rather it is the normal, psychologically healthy, traditionally prudent means by which one slowly integrates one’s child into society.

    I do not think this is a hard and fast rule: the exceptions are so many as to barely deserve to be labeled as such. But I do think that, in a society in which your just war theory of homeschooling would justify homeschooling, withholding a 5-yr-old from formal education ought to be considered a legitimate, even normal, option.

    Dr. Fahey, we have had the privilege of meeting once. I hope we can do so again.

  • William Fahey

    Dear Mr. Mehan,

    Yes, I agree. In my piece (again, short and extracted imperfectly from a larger lecture), I am only speaking about children at the traditional age of formal education. I certainly would not encourage parents to send children on to a full and formal school until perhaps 7 or 8 (one must consider the child more than the calendar). And again, this would be possible only where what I would call the normative, healthy structure of the institutions we broadly name “schools” are available and, as I say, healthy. I am addressing formal schooling (at home or out of the home) in the essay. I am not addressing the formation or “education” that is natural and best given around the hearth by the mother and father when the child is very young. That form of homeschooling is irreplaceable.

    As to your comment that “in the history of western education, boys were never thought of as scholastically educable before roughly the age of a modern day 3rd-grader,” one might add (as one who has tutored for homeschooling co-ops, taught in prep-school, and for many years now at the College level), that some take even longer than that to become educable!

    I thank you for the distinctions and would gladly meet again.

  • bob

    I’m afraid I’m going to be hardheaded about this one. I am unalterably opposed to homeschooling, and this is in spite of the occasional negative experiences my own children have had in public schools. Part of the value of a child going daily to an environment that is not the home is to wean him/her from that environment, and prepare them for life in the adult world, as a member of a large, diverse society in which not everyone is like you or meets your expectations. You will never, ever convince me that this can be done in the home.

  • Phil

    Johnny Joe,
    I question your conclusion that modern society steals childhood. In fact, it worships it. It takes children (I have 2) who are fallen, beautiful, selfish barbarian blessings, and declares that they are a perfect reflection of the Rousseauian state of nature. If adults just get out of the way and let them succeed, or founder due to their myriad developmental difficulties, they will turn out to be virtuous adults. This is clearly ridiculous. In addition, that adulthood is almost permanently delayed through the expansion of childhood through adolescene and early adulthood. Millions of 18-22 year old adults (I was one) are sent off, largely on their parents dime, to live essentially consequence and responsiblity free lives at college, and then expected to open their eyes in their mid-twenties and interact with society.
    My wife and I are seriously considering homeschooling, and perhaps for longer than just through the 3rd grade (I agree wholeheartedly with Matthew). But I think we need to realize that if children don’t “get it” by 12, 13, 14, and are not able to confidently interact with society, then there is a slim chance they will get it between 14 and 18, or 14 and 40. Rather than worry about society stealing childhood, I think we need to use childhood to form good children, so that they will mature into good young adults.
    The relative test score merits are sort of irrelevant, right, because magnet sex experiment schools out of A Brave New World that made your kids excel but included sex play would be a big mistake, and properly constituted homeschooling might not lead your children to outperform their peers. The real question is fulfilling our responsibilities to raise our children in a Catholic culture, as much as humanly possible. If that means the culture of the home for education, at certain ages, under certain circumstances, fine.

  • Michael Baruzzini

    Part of the value of a child going daily to an environment that is not the home is to wean him/her from that environment, and prepare them for life in the adult world, as a member of a large, diverse society in which not everyone is like you or meets your expectations. You will never, ever convince me that this can be done in the home.

    Where in the real, adult world do you spend your entire day moving from one row of seats to the next on a precisely timed schedule, in a group composed exclusively of those of your exact same age? The idea that the institutionalized modern school is anything like the “real world” has always baffled me. The real world involves learning to manage your own time, and learning to interact with individuals of all ages, educations, professions, and maturity levels — all of which is not gotten in the average school. It’s not found in the homeschoolers who hunker down and hide, either — but it is found in homeschoolers who learn in groups with children of other ages, who observe their parents at work with clients and customers, who learn to balance their duties to the family with the needs of study, and so forth.

    It seems to me that a twelve-year-old who has to deal with, in the course of the day, the elderly neighbor and the baby brother and the plumber stopping by to fix the sink has a greater experience of the diversity of the real world than the twelve-year old who spends the entire day in a room with twenty other twelve-year-olds and just a handful of adult teachers.

  • LifeObserver

    The foundational disagreement I have with Dr. Fahey’s just war theory application to homeschooling is this: I would argue that homeschooling is not merely a reactionary, self-defensive action, rather it is the ideal even if there is an orthodox Catholic institutional school across the street.

    I would argue that institutional schools, like daycare centres, or any other institution, are subservient to the parents, in other words, second best. It seems a strong argument, rooted in Church law, could be made for this position.

    Parents are the most important educators of their children, therefore the more they can do the better. That said, we all need to rely on resources, and even at times other well-chosen people to help us.

    Schools are one of many options for parents to choose from at their discretion. We need them so that choice is available. If there is a good Catholic school, we should support it to help those families who for any number of reasons are not able to teach their own children, or work all day, or for families who may need other resources while homeschooling.

    Moreover, I would also argue that just like the section in the code of canon law directed at Catholic universities is only applicable to universities, the section directed at Schools is only directed to those who choose to send their children to institutional schools, it’s irrelevant to homeschoolers who would follow the sections directed to Catholic education provided for by the parents.

    Can. 226

  • Christopher Manion

    I appreciate and generally agree with Dr. Fahey’s further comments and clarifications. A few observations not totally extraneous to the topic, if I may.

    The first home-schooler I ever knew was Phyllis Schlafly. She taught all of her children at home in Alton for the first few years of “grade school,” and as her house-guest I was able to watch her do it in the 1970s. “You can get everything done, better and faster

  • Chris Ryland

    I would submit to Dr. Fahey (as others have touched upon) that the modern form of schooling was invented by Horace Mann in Massachusetts in the late 1800’s in order to form the “mass man for the new mass state”, explicitly adopting the Prussian-style methods of factory-like indoctrination.

    The parochial schools later started in this country, as a defense mechanism by Catholics who were concerned about the implicit attacks on the Faith found in secular schools, were in fact mimicing the secular school structure, without questioning their foundational principles.

    This kind of mass education (big classrooms with teachers, all working in lock-step, dumbing everyone down to the same level) is about the worst way to educate children known to man, but somehow moderns persist in seeing it as the norm.

    As an antidote to this general brainwashing, I would recommend a thorough reading of “The Underground History of American Education” by John Taylor Gatto (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com). Gatto, the NY State Teacher of the Year (in 1990) has also written other great critiques of modern education (“Dumbing Us Down”, etc.).

  • Michael

    I’m afraid I’m going to be hardheaded about this one. I am unalterably opposed to homeschooling, and this is in spite of the occasional negative experiences my own children have had in public schools. Part of the value of a child going daily to an environment that is not the home is to wean him/her from that environment, and prepare them for life in the adult world, as a member of a large, diverse society in which not everyone is like you or meets your expectations. You will never, ever convince me that this can be done in the home.

    Let me start by saying that I have no intention to try and change your mind Bob. You confessed yourself to be hardheaded, unalterably opposed, and unchangeable on the matter. But you should ask yourself, are these really the attitudes to take about such an issue?

    Do you really find such fault in the multitude of good Catholic families who are raising such Godly children who are not only virtuous but academically astute as well? Have you ever compared and contrasted the children from a homeschooled family to those from a family whose children attend public school? I dare say you haven’t. I’m met with that C&C all the time. People continuously tell me how polite my kids are, how well they socialize with adults and other kids -of all ages, not just of their peer group- and how intelligent they are. And often times, the folks who are making the observations are able to guess that the difference in our kids versus other less behaved, less adjusted, less erudite kids is, you guessed it, we homeschool them.

    Now, this isn’t to say that ALL homeschool kids are superior in intellect, virtue, manners, behavior, etc. Likewise, I’m also not saying that all children in public schools are miscreants who are doomed for juvenile detention. We’re dealing, for the most part, with aggregate data. Stereotypes. Generalities.

    Likewise, it is not all that common for children in the public (or even parochial) school system to experience “occasional negative experiences” as you say yours have. My wife is a former school teacher, having taught in both public and parochial schools. Believe me when I tell you that in both systems, there are serious hardships faced by the student whose parents are trying to raise him or her according to the precepts of the Church. If you don’t see this, you either have very limited experience or are horribly myopic.

    Thankfully, there are many others who have seen the beauty of homeschooling for what it is and are embracing it wholeheartedly. And their numbers are growing each year.

    One last point… you stated that part of the value in children going to public school is that it is a place to wean them from home and prepare them for the “real world,” whatever that is. I couldn’t disagree more. At the tender, impressionable age at which we are sending our children to these public schools, they are not emotionally or spiritually ready to confront the kinds of evils that await them. Better to be at home, learning about their faith, being fortified in virtue and wisdom and knowledge so that when the time comes, when they are mature enough to enter “the real world,” they will have the proper tools to survive, thrive, and make a difference in the lives of others.

    Michael

  • alice moore

    What’s a parent to do, Mr. Fahey? Do you really think your word of caution has much meaning at this present time when public education aims to disparage everything Catholic? I think it does not. We’re in a serious crisis at the present time. Your caution here is like trying to teach good table manners to a person dying of starvation.

    Well said. I agree – after 10 years of homeschooling my only son, I have yet to meet a homeschool family that comes close to the description of “caution” advised by Dr. Fahey. What I have encountered are faith-filled Catholic parents who are “hungry” for an alternative to the anti-Catholic “Catholic” schools currently available in our diocese. My son is very extroverted and was excited to be attending our local Catholic high school this year. Within 8 weeks, he endured much verbal abuse (not a problem, he told me) until he was raped by another student. Add to this the schools theology curriculum that espoused birth control, abortion, homosexuality, Marxism and women priests, and it’s not hard to figure out why we have returned to homeschooling thru a local public charter school. (By the way, the rape was witnessed by several students, the administration admitted that my son had been violated – but there was no action taken against the perpetrator.)

    What is a parent to do, Dr. Fahey? Maybe as “primary educators” of our children, we should remember that parents base their decisions on doing what they deem best for their children – whether it be homeschool, public or private school. We personally know many families that have made these choices for their children and their children have grown to be happy, healthy, faithfully Catholic adults. I think we have to trust their judgement in educating their own children. No one is perfect.

  • Robert

    Mr. Fahey’s concern about isolating kids just doesn’t resonate with our experience. After 4 years in Catholic schools we pulled our kids out and they’ve thrived spiritually, academically and socially.

    The idea that this thing called homeschooling is only a necessary, albeit reluctant response to the state of schools today simply avoids the obvious advantages homeschooling is proving over traditional schools.

    It’s interesting that the Bishop in our diocese is aggresively looking for ways of drawing public, charter and homeschool students back into Catholic schools. He’s missing the fact that most homeschoolers I know have become convinced that no formal school will ever be able to compete with what’s being done at home. This attitude isn’t born out of arrogance, isolationism or ideology. For homeschoolers it’s a straightforward conclusion based upon what they’ve experienced.

  • Rusty

    The Catholic Church helped create the multicultural, globalist disaster we are experiencing in the schools, through their 1980’s “peace outreach” and partnership with the tribe of communists, their support of egalitarianism, and their lack of support for the rights of existing peoples to maintain their own cultures in their own lands, namely Westerners. How is the West or Western Civilization supposed to survive if Westerners — the only ones who can create and support it, by definition — are not allowed to dominate it?

    The Church, along with the State and Globo-Capitalism, is failing Westerners in a spectacular way. She is creating ignorant pagans faster than the State ever could and is in no position to lead anyone until she cleans up her own act.

  • jay schwarz

    i grew in a catholic home, catholic schooling K-12. my three children have had a catholic education k-8. as a long time (20 years) coach of multi-sport recreational league elementary and junior high school aged children – i have had the opportunity to see and interact with children with varied backgrounds, varied schooling methods, and although primarily catholic – varied beliefs.

    from my coaching experiences, it is clear is that home schooling stunts a child’s social growth. the number of home schooled children that i have had a chance to interact with are usually social misfits – they have not developed nor seem to devlop the minimum social interactive skills that children and young adults require in a social setting.

  • Bob Parmelee

    I enjoyed the article as well as the responses, but I must admit being a bit surprised at the lack of apparent concern toward

  • Rick

    Dr. Fahey,

    You make some good points here. Certainly, Catholicism is not promoting liberal individualism. But, I fear that you have gone a bit too far.

    The problems that Catholic families today face are significant. First of all, Catholic schools, at least where I live (Georgia), are elitist institutions. I am in the middle class. I have more than the 2.1 kids that are average among our contracepting culture. I do not make enough money to send my kids to parochial schools. The Catholic schools, because of the devastation wrought by Vatican II, are now staffed entirely by lay people and are designed to educate the children of white collar professionals. I am not bitter; that is just the situation they face. But, I do not have the money to afford Catholic education. (If I sent all of my children to Catholic schools, it would eat up 60% of my current income.)

    Thus, I homeschool. But, I must say that while I did not come to homeschooling from an ideological disposition, I have become a fierce defender of homseschooling in the 6 years it has been part of my home. First of all, our culture is toxic. My children will experience that eventually (they experience some of it now). But I do not have to compete with school in establishing a culture in my family. That is a good thing. Also, my child is not a slave to the state (i.e., a public school pupil who must watch our Great Leader instruct them as to the benefits of the liberal state). That is an added bonus.

    Formal schooling, as many commentators have already mentioned, is a modern invention. In the US, formal schooling was largely a Protestant and secularist project. Hoemschooling was the norm for most of western history (if schooling was even an option). The key idea that I would like to see you discuss is the egalitarian mindset (produced by the Enlightenment — no Catholic movement that was) of universal schooling. That, I would argue, is no Catholic idea. Perhaps your assumptions have some relation to the Enlightenment rationalist model of universal schooling? I will leave it at that.

    I did appreciate your article, even if I disagreed with it. I appreciated the tone in which you conducted your argument. Thank you for the civility.

  • Matt Bowman

    Hi! I posted a repsonse to this essay on homeschooling, over at the CatholicVote.org blog.

  • margaret saindon

    The family is in crisis. Only 20% of Catholics attend Sunday mass. 51% of abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as Catholic. 90% of married Catholics have practiced contraception. 30% of Catholics still believe that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

    While not every parent has the formal training needed for teaching high school level subject matter most can form a child into a moral, civilized, compassionate adult.

    Homeschooling is not about socialization, higher education or enculturation. It is about salvation.

    Well done, Dr. Fahey.

  • Neil Saindon

    I, personally am overjoyed to find that there are still people that care about education enough to both read about it and write about. Bless you all. I have read the article by Dr. Fahey and I have read some, not all, of the comments so if I tread on someone’s toes, or write something that offends I am truly sorry. In addition my keyboard is a little sticky so please excuse any spelling errors. [smiley=wink]

    I am 25 years old. I was Home-Schooled. Further, I am a graduate of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts Class ’07. I graduated with a BA in Philosophy. I attended the college under the illustrious presidency of the College’s founder Dr. Peter Sampo, prior to Dr. Fahey’s arrival. As Such, I know next to nothing about Dr. Fahey as a man, a teacher, a father, a Catholic or any of the many roles he no doubt fills in life. I do, however, know this: The goal of education has never been to forge “good citizens.” That the well educated are good citizens is rather an effect of their education than its goal. The goal of education has never been to forge “Good Catholics.” As the goal of the “Good Catholic” is heaven and the only road to heaven runs through the Church to claim that the Church alone is insufficient for the forging of “Good Catholics” and that we ourselves as Parents, Teachers etc. must take it upon ourselves to make sure that Children are made “Good Catholics” is to set ourselves up as rivals of the Church. Such a rivalling is, I think, unwise. Our goal, rather, is to prepare our Children, as best we can, to love The Truth, Love the Good, and to love Wisdom by increasing in them their own God given abilities to recognize and to seek these things.

    I go back to the very beginning of this Western Canon, to Socrates who, in my opinion, truly began the correct process of education. He taught in the Agora (the Market) much like Christ. He taught anyone that would listen, again, much like Christ. He tought in homes, in temples, in The Academy and even in a court room waiting for a death sentence undeserved, one more time, much like Christ. Thiseathen Greek taught us to love the truth, to love Wisdom, and to love The Good. He had no Catholic education, no Home-schooled isolation, no government sanctioned indoctrination or anything else. He just loved wisdom. He truly was a Philosopher.

    The Goal of education is to teach us to pursue these virtues of Goodness, Truth and Wosdom unrelentingly, to pursue these virtues as a lover pursues the beloved, as Christ persues each of us, and as we ought to persue Him. I would argue that the goal of education is to implant within men (mankind) a firm love of Wisdom and a reverence for Truth. Those that receive these things cannot but be “Good Citizens,” “Good Catholics,” and Virtuous men and women. I would then argue that it is both the responsibility and the right of a parent (Catholic or not) to choose the form of education that best allows this transformation from child to Virtuous adult to take place.

    Pace,

  • Common Reader

    If your average Catholic homeschooling mother had a good and holy school down the street, trust me, no ideology could withstand the possibility of getting some housework done without feeling guilty that you’re not simultaneously drilling math facts.

    The problem that you describe just isn’t a real problem. It’s as if you are addressing people under food rationing: I see you are all used to margarine and maybe even claim it is superior! But butter is so much better, you must not forget! First of all, we’ve never had any butter. Some of us have never even met anybody who’s had any butter. Second of all, do you really think when the butter shows up, there won’t be a market for butter anymore? Natural goods are attractive to normal people. Mostly people are praising the margarine as a coping mechanism. It doesn’t mean much, except in the cases of serious weirdos who are going to eat margarine no matter what you do or say.

  • JC

    Rsponding to Dr. Fahey’s main point, though a few able commentators have beaten to me to the punch, I’ll still add my 2 cents worth. A lot of discussion on the merits and demerits of homeschooling, but Fahey was dealing with its position in Catholic thought, as such.

    OK, parents are primary educators, but must cooperate with Church and civil authorities. . .
    First problem I see: some commentators (and recent Church documents) contend that the State has a right to be involved in education. The State’s involvement in education is a post-enlightenment development adn happened precisely to counter the power of the Church . The purpose of public education, both in the US and in Europe, is and always has been to compete with Catholic education.

    Point 2: Catholic education has gotten too expensive. Most Catholic schools these days cost upwards of $5000 per year–per student. If going to parochial school makes you a “good Catholic,” then apparently only those who make at least an upper middle class income can be good Catholics.

    Point 3: As others have stated, there has always been home-based education. Haven’t you read any of those 19th Century novels about private tutors and governesses? Even the one room schoolhouse was more akin to modern homeschooling than the modern prison-school.

    The *original* purpose of Catholic schools was to train future priests. Later, it came to be the education of children who were too poor to afford books or tutors at home. In both cases, parochial schooling was the exception, not the norm.

    Where homeschooling *is* the exception is religious education as such, which traditionally has been the purview of priests and religious.

    Even Aristotle was privately tutored and worked as a private tutor himself. If you look at some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century–C. S. Lewis and William F. Buckley come to mind–they were educated by a mix of boarding school and tutors at home, but usually got more out of the tutors. Indeed, today, public school parents still pay extra money (or NCLB grants do) for students to get tutoring outside school, anyway.

    The big difference is that, today, we have resources that weren’t available even 50 years ago. Most people can buy books fo rtheir home, paper, pens: even those resources used to be relatively rare and expensive. We have the Internet, the various programs mentioned in this thread (virtual schools, Catholic home study schools like Seton, etc.).

    The school, as it has evolved, is an artificial and de-humanizing institution (as is the modern day corporate workplace). I grew up attending it all: good and bad public schools, “nondenominational” private school, Catholic school, and periods of “home study” when my health was not good enough to be in school. My parents were “Reagan Democrats”. My dad, a public school teacher, was very influential with the NEA with we lived in PA. Dad still looks with suspicion on our decision to homeschool, even though we use the SCVCS (powered by K12, for which my wife also teaches).

    Yet most of my time in institutional school is PTSD for me: intellectual boredom from the unstimulating curriculum, falling asleep in class because of my beta blockers, being teeased and bullied; etc. Even when I was in school, I was “home schooled,” as my dad would teach me Shakespeare, SAT vocabulary, Harvard Classics, etc., in elementary and middle school.

    There are certainly advantages to institutional schooling, but most of those can be achieved by the strategies Dr. Fahey suggests-which many commentators have noted most homeschoolers do, anyway.

  • Michael Six

    Dr. Fahey’s article does surface a fact we did not articulate but certainly was present in our discerning: a presumption in favor of communal schools with professional teachers (which I am not).

    Marjorie Campbell brings out an interesting assumption that is often used by those outside homeschooling – that today’s “professional teachers” are necessarily better fit to teach our children than their own parents. While this can be the case, I would not be so quick to assume that it necessarily is so.

    The professional teachers who have gone through a Teachers’ College have gotten the full dose of pop-psychology along with a wide range of interesting educational philosophies that will be superseded by another interesting set of educational philosophies in a few short years. In an era of liberal higher education, these colleges are among the most liberal. I want to protect my children from their influence.

    The parochial elementary schools are in a somewhat better situation since they can’t afford to pay a “professional teachers” wage. I know many fine parochial teachers who work hard to educate their students, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps it is not so much the teachers’ fault, the whole system seems to be broken.

  • Joe DeVet

    It’s not a bad thing to warn of possible abuses of home schooling. A more balanced article would have shown the supposed dangers of home-schooling vs the dangers (truly) of submitting your son or daughter to secular public education, or to what passes in too many places for “Catholic” schooling.

    The author alludes to these, but does not specify.

    In the case of public education, even in the best of circumstances public education is badly broken. A culture gets the schools it deserves, and our broken culture spawns a broken school system. When a culture cannot agree on even first principles, or agrees on toxic first principles, then public education cannot be a force for good. Just to name a few pathologies, public education today fosters lower educational standards, over-valuing of the individual vs the common good, lowering of standards of decency and civility, grossly undervaluing discipline, socialization of its subjects to the pop culture and to whatever the peer culture is, and promotes the state religion–atheism. Our eldest daughter works in a public school, and a careful directive given their staff for this school year illustrates the latter point perfectly. Don’t, they were told, say “God bless you” to one who sneezes, lest you offend anyone within hearing who does not believe in God!

    Similarly, the Catholic community gets the Catholic schools it deserves. The Church today is in deep though un-acknowledged schism over faith and morals. The “spirit of V-II” crowd propose a faith that is malleable and rife with moral relativism, consistently in dissent against the true faith. Sadly, most Catholic schools have aligned with this side of the schism. Sadly, too, the leadership of the Church in the US (with some notable exceptions) chooses to cover over the schism with a “layer of snow,” as it were, benignly pretending the schism does not exist. Those of us at ground level know the battle we are in, however, and are not confused about which side of the divide we are on, nor who the key players are on each side.

    In this context, if a warning is to be sounded about ideology let it include a proper warning about the dissenting ideology of most Catholic schools.

    The author alludes to this, but does not illustrate it.

    In my experience most of the home-schoolers have already taken the steps recommended by the author to see that their home-schooling does not fall into the traps he warns against. They belong to home-schooling associations (whether formal or informal), which organize religious and secular field trips for the children; provide curriculum materials; arrange for ‘exchange’ programs to allow their students to learn subjects from someone more qualified than the parents; arrange sports leagues; provide other socializing opportunities. As a result, many home-schoolers are better socialized for contact with a variety of kinds and ages of people than their public-school peers are. They are, by and large, better educated in every other aspect as well.

    The author worries about “home-churchers”. This is an unfortunate epithet, since it seems inconsistent with Catholic teaching that the home is a “domestic church.” The author is concerned that these home-schoolers/home-churchers promote an attitude of “non-serviam” toward the greater Catholic community.

    This worry is contrary to fact. Most Catholic home-schoolers are the very people who see to it that their kids are at mass every Sunday, and many, more often than that. They are the ones who see to it that their kids are exposed to true Catholic doctrine, not the toxic mix of feel-good catechesis and moral relativism, and whatever popular fad is running through the other side of the schism, that they are taught at Catholic schools.

    Is there a Protestant slant to the home-school literature, as the author mentions? If so, what is it and how should Catholic home-schoolers respond to it? My guess is that this too is an empty warning, because most Catholic home-schoolers choose to be so, at least in part, to oppose the “protestant” excesses present on the other side of the Catholic schism. They know how to discern it, and know how to oppose it.

  • Douglas Markwell

    If homeschooling is temporary, it sure seems to be an awfully permanent sort of temporary!

  • Sam Miloscia

    Did Mary homeschool Jesus?

    The Third Article, of Question 12, of the Third Part of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica demonstrates that
    “Christ did not receive any knowledge by the teaching of any man.”

  • Bob Williams (Walsh ’90)

    Mr Fraley begins his polemic badly, citing pre-Christian pagans such as Artistotle and Cicero, then proceeds with a parochial bias against homeschooling. The war analogy was the anit-climax.

    It would behoove us to remember that schooling was coopted by the state as a Protestant reaction to Catholic schooling. Protestants sought to use the force of government to their advantage. Once the state held sovereignty in schooling, Christianity filtered out and secularism, nationalism, etc took its place.

    We Americans need to reclaim our first and ninth amendment rights to schooling and rebuild the wall that once existed between schooling/church and the state.

  • Sarah L

    My mom homeschooled me for one year–to help me catch up academically. One year with her was enough to rekindle my desire to learn and to do well. I learned to love history (I’d considered it dry and dull before then). We weren’t Catholic then, so we used one of the Protestant satellite school programs. When I returned to public school for seventh grade, I was suddenly ahead of the game (rather than behind).
    I attended public school for most of my education, and it was during my high school years that I first had a class where we discussed controversial topics like “gay rights” and abortion. Since my parents had always frankly discussed such topics with their kids (or at least with each other when we were around), I had no problem responding to those issues in a manner consistent with my Christian upbringing. My parents were outspoken defenders of the Truth, and I wanted to follow their example. I was also partially immune to the pressure to say what my peers wanted to hear, because I was a nerd. It still stung a bit to see other kids rolling their eyes and reacting with open contempt for my “two cents worth.” I was most saddened, though, when a boy in my class, on whom I’d had a crush for a couple years, responded (when his turn came to speak) with a spineless, evasive “joke” to avoid the subject entirely. My crush ended abruptly that afternoon.

    I’m somewhat reclusive by nature and structure (while I have no problem adapting to it) is not something I spontaneously create for myself or for my kids. I like an organized workspace, but, while I decided–even before I met my husband–that I wanted to homeschool the kids I would have someday (God willing), I had no idea, really, what that entailed. For the first several years of our marriage, I considered myself a traditionalist, and one of the reasons for my attraction to traditionalism was the validation of my natural inclination to withdraw from society and isolate myself. I like people–but in relatively smaller doses. I’ve wondered lately, as I homeschool our middle child (five-year-old Claire) whether my decision to homeschool her–and my particular “version” of homeschooling–serves her well. She’s more extroverted than I ever was, and she’s excited about going to Religious Education every week with our parish. Michael, our oldest, has Aspergers, and he appreciates the structure of classroom learning and has benefitted from the autism spectrum support (and special transportation) provided by the local school district. He’s had good teachers, and, maybe because of his mother’s less-than-outgoing nature, has a hard time seeing me as “teacher” as well as “Mom.”

    Honestly, as I write this, I would far rather teach in a good Catholic school (like the one connected with our parish) and have our kids attend such a school than homeschool them. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and many of the responses, and I may yet homeschool one or more of our kids, but, if I can obtain my teaching license, the structure of such a work environment (as well as the learning environment) would do us all good. I believe that homeschooling is not for everyone. I also believe that those who homeschool their kids–and do it well–render the Church and society a tremendous service. So do great Catholic schools and their teachers. God bless you all!

  • Mrs. O

    Parental rights are always there, regardless of whether throughout the history of our Church or cultural, they were well stated. These rights, whether or not they are exercised, or how they are exercised still belong to the parents.
    That said, I agree with Mr. Fahey’s assessment. We have, in the Church alone, gone through a crisis and still are going through one. Ideally, we would love to have the ability to share the responsibility of educating our children but in reality, that is not possible, yet.
    For us, it is a matter of trust. It is also a response to reality.

  • HSCC

    from my coaching experiences, it is clear that home schooling stunts a child’s social growth. the number of home schooled children that i have had a chance to interact with are usually social misfits – they have not developed nor seem to develop the minimum social interactive skills that children and young adults require in a social setting.

    Jay, what exactly do you mean by “social growth” or “minimum social interactive skills”? If you are going to make such a heavy handed generalization, you need to provide examples to back up your assertions.

    Neil Saindon and Christopher Manion both seem to have a firm grasp of the reality of public, parochial, and home education. I think it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, “If you want your children to lose their Faith, send them to Catholic school.” And of course, everyone knows how much worse the public school system is.

    Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt wrote a book entitled “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America”, and it chronicles our education system over the past century. A free copy can actually be downloaded at http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/

    Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but in this day and age, it’s hard to see how any parent who wants their children to remain Catholic could choose to send their kids anywhere else.

  • mixed blessings

    That said, I do find a tendency amongst some homeschoolers to discount school (parish or independent) as an option or as a good.

    Many homeschool families especially those with a bunch of kids, CANNOT AFFORD PARISH OR INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS, even if they like the school.

    Too often I have been party to conversations where even these schools are viewed as inferior to homeschooling. Why? Often because they are in communion with the Church hierarchy, or the liturgy is not to the personal taste of the parents, or simply that parents judge the curriculum is not ordered in the right way or a favorite book is missing

    This is a dangerous generalization.. It assumes that many or all homeschooling parents have contempt for Church hierarchy, which is just not true. Sadly, many of the diocesan schools have lost their Catholic identity, just like the Catholic colleges. The comment about “the liturgy is not to the personal taste of the parents” is insulting… Friends of mine did not put their child in an otherwise pretty good Catholic school because of the demand that the child attend a once a week rock and roll folk children’s Mass. They felt this would be disruptive to the child’s spiritual growth, especially during the child’s first communion year. In other words, they saw the liturgy as an assault rather than an aid to the child’s faith. Are the parents to be scorned for their decision?

    Unfortunately, with today’s Catholic schools, the parents are put in the position of choosing between a rock and a hard place.

  • Anne J.

    We made a very difficult decision this past year to move to a completely different area away from our home, families, and friends so that our children could attend an independent Catholic school (which teaches grades 7-12). Homeschooling was no longer working for our family, and had in fact become detrimental.

    Due in part to old outdated spiritual materials provided by the curriculum company and social unease with many of the homeschooled kids she was in contact with, one of my daughters became scrupulous and anxious, and it plunged her into the depths of spiritual doubt and an eating disorder. She spent the summer in a residential treatment facility to begin overcoming the latter, and is progressing well in her recovery. A kind religion teacher at her high school is helping her overcome the scrupulosity and doubt. I believe that at some point, normal teens no longer believe Mom and Dad are the last word on things, and need to hear the truths of the Faith from others.

    Our second daughter, who has a cheerful, upbeat personality free from psychological difficulties, is thriving in her new environment. Last year, she refused to work most days and spent her time reading in her room. This year she is in 3 choirs at school, plus band, and is on the honor roll. She is also going to try out for the school play in the spring. In short, she has been given a new lease on life.

    No parent knows everything. No family is completely balanced. Sometimes you are too close to someone to see a problem developing. It’s YOUR child — how objective are you going to be?? Some families don’t have Dads who keep teachers’ hours, and in those families, Mom is largely on her own. Not every child is cut out for homeschooling. Younger children seem to do well with homeschooling (I’m still homeschooling my younger ones until they’re old enough to attend the school), but no small “cell group” of families can provide what teenaged children really need, which is a larger group of like-minded friends, good teachers who are both knowledgeable and excited about their subjects and who support the parents’ role in raising the children. Thank God, He gave us the opportunity to have that. I truly do not know what I would have done if we couldn’t have moved. There were no schools in our former area we could’ve sent our kids to in good conscience, and it was very clear to us the older ones could no longer remain at home.

    I personally think, contrary to people like Mary Kay Clark and other Catholic homeschooling advocates, that the future of Catholic education is in independent (i.e., non-diocesan) Catholic schools. The vast majority of bishops in this country have proven themselves untrustworthy, and their schools are pricey, watered-down versions of what was originally intended.

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