In Praise of Noisy Villages: Homeschooling and the Common Good

A simple premise: nothing short of the complete family being engaged in learning will secure a proper education.

Behind this premise is a simple principle: Education is communal.

It is communal because that which deals with the formation and perfection of a child, that which draws him to adulthood, is drawing him to the greater perfection of his humanity. And since man is, as Aristotle, Cicero, and St. Thomas Aquinas tell us, a political or social animal, we must never neglect the communal dimension of education.

Independent work, individual talent, and personal responsibility must remain central, but these things are only possible within the context of a communal environment.  At the very least, in education there is a standard set by another, the evaluation given by another, the works done by others; we are always aware of others when we learn, even when we learn or work quietly alone.

To the matter of homeschooling, there are two concerns that require careful (and frequent) examination.

First, I am concerned with the rising individualism one finds wormed into our literature on homeschooling.  By individualism, I do not mean fruitful individual initiative or due responsibility; I do not mean a strong and firm character.  Rather I mean something negative: the spirit that says “I shall not serve.”  It is a spirit that grows from the Protestant dominance of homeschooling and the anti-cultural Sixties radicalism that can be said to be its other parent.

Second, I believe that it is dangerously common to find a destructive isolation, especially for the mother in homeschooling families, and therefore, a spirit that will be corrosive of good family life. This is not recognized honestly and addressed nearly enough.

In any age of crisis, when the most fundamental components of a culture, country, and faith are being redefined, some willingly, some by force, little is more important and worthy of deep and honest reflection as to how best to equip our children for whatever the coming new age will be. And so, with regard to homeschooling, we must ask a question which may be emotionally difficult for many: is homeschooling the only (or best) Catholic approach to a child’s education?  Some argue that is it. But not out of necessity, but as an ideal.  I do not believe either history or the teaching of the Church support this exclusivity.  I am concerned that through the virtuous and needed path homeschooling offers to so many of us who have poor or non-existent alternatives, families are being drawn into an ideology, a shadow image of Catholic culture, Catholic education, and the family itself.

Catholic Education as a Social Activity

By the expression “education as a social activity” I do not mean the facile argument about the “socialization” of students that suggests that if John and Mary do not have an opportunity to eat baloney sandwiches with 300 of their dearest friends and talk about “Hannah Montana” they will grow up to be deviants. Even the occasionally more sophisticated version on “the value of socialization” can be quickly deconstructed and seen for what it is, code for the regimented ethic of pop culture.  That is of no importance to this discussion.

I mean something much more radical and initially more difficult, perhaps, for homeschoolers to accept.

Stated positively: education is for the perfection of the child, and the child is perfected for a life in society. Thus, education should look beyond the family.

Stated more controversially: I mean that the common approach to homeschooling is inherently dangerous, because it in many ways goes against what ancient western tradition and the Catholic Church herself teach about the education of the young. What they teach is that it really 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 in a time and place of crisis.  But we need to establish the norms of education before we can evaluate the forms of education.  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.”

Second, 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 persona 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.”

These documents set forth the principles by which we do educate our children and clearly allow, and in some instances, may encourage homeschooling. Significantly, the documents are critical of any form of education that jeopardizes the child’s moral and spiritual development.

That being said, I firmly believe that is essential to keep in mind a simple truth:  homeschooling also can become a destructive ideology.  Homeschooling in this nation was spear-headed by hippies in the 1960s and has largely been embraced by Protestants; some 95% of homeschoolers are Protestants.  The literature and materials have a tone that rest well with American Protestants.  More alarming, homeschooling has risen side-by-side with Home churching.  Homeschooling is not rooted in the western tradition nor—as the above mentioned documents illustrate—in the Catholic tradition.  It is still a proper response to a crisis within society and, sadly, within some quarters of the Church. But there are caveats.

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 generations.  Again, by analogy, what I’m 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.  We should then carefully assess if we are following the principles rooted in Natural Law, Scripture, and the Catholic educational tradition. Central to these principles is whether or not our home education includes social activity (properly understood). If not, we tread on dangerous ground.

I see no end to the crisis that calls for homeschooling; and I am glad that the principles of Catholic education allow it and allow it to be a vehicle for the good.

Nevertheless, homeschoolers need to take steps to ensure homeschooling preserves the goal of traditional teaching: the perfection of the person for God’s glorification and for his living a life of service and sanctification in human society.

A Little House in the Big Woods: Did Ma Keep Bourbon Behind the China Doll?

Biology and vocation do not always overlap. This essential point is forgotten or avoided in much of our homeschooling literature.  That we have children does not endow us to be grammarians. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy which creates stress, which can set a tone in the home that works indeed against the perfection of the person.

Mothers especially labor in the relentless, exhausting task of being the principal, cafeteria staff, gym coach, bus driver, hall-monitor, and (lest we forget) teacher of every subject. In large families, and added to other household chores, these tasks are consuming, sometimes overwhelming. To be a mother is a noble vocation. To be a teacher is a noble vocation. For some it may be that being a homeschooling mother is requiring a heroic effort. One might fairly ask if this is obscuring a true vocational calling. Here too, making homeschool a social activity is as important for the mother as for the children.

It is also important to recognize that the “burn-out” and “isolation” and perception of inadequacy so common to homeschooling parents is understood for what it is: the natural response to stress in the face of crisis.  This stress points 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. This point is not to be taken lightly.

I make three recommendations to support or reanimate our commitment to the communal nature of education:

1. Frequent Mass attendance.  Daily is wonderful, but in many diocese it is not an option, and in our car-dominated society often (ironically) impossible.

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 light.

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.  Education must remain communal in intent, if it is to remain healthy and true to natural law and Catholic teaching.

For the record, let me state that my wife and I homeschool five children, and that I believe that homeschooling can be filled with many joyful moments and many graces (in addition to being a good way to form the child intellectually and spiritually).  My own experience of teaching my children Latin, History, Catechism, and Natural History has been very jolly and rewarding.  What is more, it has deepened my love for my children and my own appreciation and gratitude for my vocation as a father.

I believe that a good part of the success from our homeschooling adventure has come from our persistence in at least trying always to seek a communal dimension to education and never allowing ourselves to turn homeschooling into ideology.

My analogy of “just war theory,” may strike some as imperfect, but such a shocking analogy may be necessary to make us think again about 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.

This talk is taken from an address given to the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference (June, 2009).

William Edmund Fahey


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

  • Vishal Mehra

    Perhaps the communal requirements of Education are satisfied by having a common syllabus and standard books.

    The home-schoolers hardly work in isolation. Regular industries have been set up to cater to their needs and thus common standards have evolved. Perhaps this is the maximum that can be done given the lack of political power in the hands of alternate schoolers

  • Alecto

    I attended a small Catholic association school created by a group of families.  They shared administrative duties, but engaged professionals and a live-in priest to teach.   These excellent people were able to offer us much more than we would have received in a typical educational setting and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.  Because so many of the parents were professionals, they, too, volunteered their talents to us.  Along with daily mass and catechism, we were exposed to a variety of talents;  dance taught by our volunteer gym teacher who also  created a traveling troupe which performed locally, a Ph.d.chemist; an opera professional who taught our music classes and designed our spectacular Christmas pageants, even a leather worker who taught us how to make beautiful gifts.    In the words of Dickens, it was the best of times; a unique and idyllic approach to education.  I wish every child could experience what I was given. 

    After such a positive experience, it is difficult to understand why we are entrenched in educational models which consist on one hand of undisciplined public schools run by union diktats, Catholic schools which copy the public model, or homeschooling?  Education should evolve with every age based on the needs and concerns of families, not bureaucracies.  I would like to see more of these family-run associations, but understand how difficult that is given the current legal environment.

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  • Tricia

    I think one’s philosophy re homeschooling reflects one’s vision of the Church as well. I am a catholic homeschooler. I do see alot of “orthodoxy must equal( varying degrees of ) isolationism.” Homeschooling itself is countercultural. My personal philosophy is that we must educate and form our children to follow Christ out into the world. Catholics are called to be a light in this world. Most of my homeschooling friends disagree with this stance. But all of us are devoting all of our strength to strive for holiness as well as education. We all have different paths.

  • ChrisPineo

    I like  that the tone of this article strikes a balance that should not offend people on either side of the issue. Tough issue to tackle objectively, and well played.

  • Gina

    Bravo.  A brave and insightful article!

  • scotch meg

    The problem I have with this article is that it sounds remarkably like the arguments I have heard in favor of public schools.  That is, one should send one’s children to public (or Catholic) schools, even if they are less than optimal, so that one will exert one’s efforts to improve them, and so that the community will benefit accordingly; also so that the children will be part of the community.  Now, I happen to think that I should work to improve the public and Catholic schools where I live, just because I am part of the community.  However, neither offers what homeschooling has given my children:  the opportunity to grow as a family without artificial age barriers; the opportunity to learn at their own paces; and (as they have grown older) the opportunity to do the important work of learning – reading, writing, working problems – during the day when their energy is maximized, instead of during the evening when they are exhausted (as homework).  If schools offered more individualized, multi-age experiences, did not separate siblings, and focused less on listening-based learning to the exclusion of other kinds of work, I would be all for sending my children there.  If Catholic schools offered comprehensive and challenging presentations of the Faith, I would be even more inclined to send my children to them.  I am not a snob – but I set high standards for both academics and social interactions for my children, and I want them to get to know each other over time.  I view my homeschooling as operating under the principle of subsidiarity.  Of course, I work hard to involve my children in community activities, both through my parish, local schools, and homeschool groups.  I don’t think of myself as my children’s only educator.  And I know that not everyone is called to do what I do.    I still look at schools as the primary vehicle for education – but I wish more people would consider whether the homeschooling alternative offers a transformative view of what education is for, and what it ought to be.

  • Scoutsigns

    As a homeschooling father for 20 years (and only 12 more to go!), I think there are some fine points here, but others are missed.

    Homeschooling, whether Catholic, Protestant, religion-free or some point in-between, provides the very best opportunity for children.  The studies consistently show that if the school population as a whole is at the 50% mark, that homeschooled kids score consistently 30+points higher.  These scores are achieved regardless of the education level or economic level of the parents. 

    After all, as many homeschooling parents will tell you, you only have to be a day ahead of the student.  If you didn’t learn it when you were a student, you sure will be an expert the third, sixth, or ninth time you cover it!

    Burnout is a huge and legitimate problem.  Many deal with it by throwing in the towel.  Others chart a new course and try new things (especially if they have gone into the folly of recreating “school” at home).  As husbands, our best effort is to support our wives in this effort–give our time and treasure to make their lives easier.  If we spend our time second-guessing their work, or come home and not pitch in with the cooking and chores, we will only compound their frustration.  

    A homeschooling mom is a wife and mother with a full-time job.

    While Catholic schools are probably (and I say that only from anecdotal information) better than public school options overall, they still follow the structure that the public schools model:  other adults raising your kids for several hours a day; peer pressure; same-age peer groups providing the context of social interaction.  No thanks.

    Most Catholic homeschooling families I know call it a day when their kids reach high-school.  Sports you know.  They’ll miss the prom.  I wasn’t very good at Chemistry, so someone else should teach that.   Makes it so much easier to get into college.  There aren’t any little ones now, and I should really go back to work–I’ve been on hold long enough!  Nudge, nudge…I should get something for all those taxes I pay the school.

    It is as mind-boggling as the attitude of whether or not a math text is “Catholic” enough.

    You can’t rely on the parish schools to have your kids best interests at heart–their business is to get your child in their school system and to have the tuition paid.  

    I know, I’m rambling now.  Your points about the need for parish-level support is completely valid.  At one time, we had a thriving co-op at our small town parish, but burnout took its toll.  Like any organization, 10% do everything.  Most of the parish has no connection to homeschooling, so resources needed for a program like this aren’t going to happen.  Especially if the parish has a school.

    At the end of the day, get your kids outside.  Take them to the library often.  Read to them endlessly–regardless of their age.  Travel.  Math is still a grind for most, but necessary.  Join Scouts.  Go to Mass. 

    There should be very little difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday when you hit the right balance.

  • schmenz

    Dear Dr Fahey:

    As regards Catholic home schooling I can only add this: when the Church gets her head on straight again, there will be no need for home schools because a restored Church will once again have priests who act like priests, nuns who act like nuns and Catholic schools that teach the Faith as well as a solid curriculum.  

    But until Rome stops dancing to the tunes of modernism, a modernism which has left Her desolate, there will be a need for Catholic homeschoolers.

  • givelifeachance2

    Some of us homeschoolers who do not live in built-in orthodox Catholic villages such as might exist around an orthodox Catholic college might say this article is a bit Marie-Antoinettish.   Wouldn’t we all love to live in a homeschooling village, but most people have to deal with life in the real world where faithful Catholics are few and far between.  I see no evidence of parents deliberately trying to lock up their children at home, but I do see evidence of parents dragging and dropping their kids to the local government school, no matter what atheistic indoctrination awaits.     The author doesn’t say whether public school attendance would ever have been justified over Catholic homeschooling.   I would like to know what time period in the past would have caused homeschooling to not be justified?  Pre-Dewey?  Remember there are a very high percentage of homeschoolers on Mount Rushmore, and also that the only profession specifically named in the AP US History syllabus is that of “Republican Motherhood”.  The Little-House-bourbon-swilling mother is (I’m sure unintentionally) offensive, inasmuch as it sounds very similar to Feminist-Mistake-and-Communist writer Betty Friedan’s false demonizing of mothers-at-home. Perhaps the duties of stay-at-home moms *should* somewhat morph in response to the greater home maintenance technology we have today, but it seems as long as we have the atheistic State delivering education, there will and should be Catholic homeschools.I will submit the acid test – which pre-collegiate educational pedigree would an-aged-and-debilitated-you rather have for a doctor and nurse (or son or daughter) on your death panel.  Government school or home school?

    If what you mean to say is Catholic families should get together in the parish for mutual social support – well yes, and that’s regardless of homeschooling or not.   And if the pastor could get involved, all the better.  Even best, if he’s actually orthodox.  But I know of no parish that can really afford to give away education, up through secondary, to its families, nor should it try to do so, when moms can accomplish more on an individual budget.  And families don’t have to worry about contracepting because of spiraling private school tuitions. Let parishes do what they should do – provide a social mix and catechetical resources – and let parents be the general contractors who select the academic resources they will use (much like building a house).   Perhaps what you meant was really to direct your message to pastors, so that they might reach out to homeschoolers as resources, and with resources – rather than what this article seems to do, which is chide homeschoolers.I will go one further and put it to you that with the enormous debt our country suffers from, much of it due to government gluttonous (including teacher) pension/benefits, that every family who *can* homeschool, *should* do so.  Saves money, saves freedom, and fosters excellence.  Those who can, homeschool!

  • paul

    I thought it was illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater?

  • JP

    Dr Fahey,

    The ultimate responsibility of a child’s education belongs to the parents, and not to credentialed experts or even to Bishops. This comes straight from the Vatican. And since the religious no longer teach in our Catholic schools, the curiccula of most Catholic schools have been given to the credentialed laity. Catholic identity, and moral teachings are now subsumed within a Progressive shell that stresses intellectual goals and not necessairly Catholic ones. In my neck of the woods, Catholic schools differe little from secular prep schools. One can no longer differentiate between a Catholic educated child and one schooled at a secular prep school.  In short, your point that emphasizes the “communal” is actually a non-point. As a matter of fact, that is precisely why many Catholic parents turn to home schooling. The product of a Catholic Education is nothing more than a well educated, homogenized but Progressive individual.

    In recent polling, most educated Catholic young people leave the Church once they graduate (many are joining the new Emergent Church. Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, for instance); quite a few are openly Pro Gay Marriage, Pro Choice, and use contraceptives of all kinds. Yet, people like you find no fault in our Catholic schools. You save your critique for Home Schoolers. Personally, I think the amount of resources every dioceses spends on K-12 Education can be put to better use elsewhere.  It isn’t intellectual content that I’m complaining about. But something far more important.

    Catholic parents take thier obligations seriously. And those who homeschool do not want thier children to leave the Church once they graduate. They also understand full well that rot that has set in within Catholic Education.

  • Llmom

    This is very common.  Many homeschoolers, including Catholic ones, are falling into extremism and an isolationist attitude.  I have been involved in the homeschool movement for 17 years.  Here are a few articles pertaining to it.
    This one is a protestant one, but this happening in Catholic circles.
    I applaud you for speaking out about this.  We homeschoolers must be careful.

  • I homeschool my three boys, the oldest currently finishing up seventh grade.  We belong to a small Catholic co-op where we 7 moms share our talents and our twenty-five children form bonds of friendship.  I guess if I think very hard I know families that homeschool with little educational interaction outside of their own families.  But from my perspective you have taken a homeschool exception and defined it as the ideology. 

    The growing distance between the Church we love and the parishes and schools that surround us have resulted in the growing homeschool movement. I can imagine some mothers homeschooling not because they love to do it but rather because they are exerting heroic virtue due to this situation.  I homeschool because I saw the problems in both public and Catholic schools, but I have found it to be a wonderful experience that should always be an option for all generations, not just in these difficult times.  This is my sense of the homeschool ideology.

    I often experience “burn-out” and feelings of inadequacy even though I have a well-developed community.  I would think not experiencing these things would be quite unusual, but Dr. Fahey regards this as a sign of crisis.  I have felt that way at times working in the emergency department, teaching college students, or now as a graduate student, though I admit I feel it more deeply regarding the lives of my children.  “Jesus, I trust in you,” is what I remind myself.

    I agree that education must be a social endeavor; I disagree that homeschooling should end when
    institutional education improves for those of us that love the homeschooling ideology for its own merits.  Even in best institutional educational situations, homeschooling through much of the elementary years should be encouraged (though not expected) to build stronger family bonds.

    Dr. Fahey, I thank you for such a though-provoking article as this especially being a homeschooling father yourself.

  • hombre111

    Some gutsy things in this article.  My sisters, both teachers, have frequently taught students who had been home schooled.   Usually good, they say, in literature, history.   Usually behind in math and science.  But they both agreed that the returning home school students do not know how to behave in a class, lacking discipline and the awareness that they are not the only student in the classroom.

  • Lindsay

    I can certainly see the strains of Protestantism that creep into homeschooling ideologies, but I would like to address a couple of Dr. Fahey’s points.

    Burn out is a real thing. But sometimes it can come about from taking on too much, and sometimes that “too much” happens when feeling like you aren’t doing enough. Co-ops can be excellent, but I am not convinced that they are superior or ideal.  I help moderate a Catholic homeschool board online, and I commonly see moms burned out from “running around,” and very often, the advice from the experienced mothers to the newbies is some form of  “learn to say no.” Some of the most peaceful homeschooling families I know are those who guard their time at home, not feeling the need to take on every (good) opportunity that comes their way.

    In short, I do find it a bit conflicting that  burn-out is cited as a symptom and doing more as a definitive cure. Support from a community is a blessing, but some may find that stepping back from activities is essential in maintaining their peace and joy. It does not come out of any misplaced isolationism, but I do think it can require a confidence that I hope isn’t being confused with radical individualism.

    Additionally, one of the key advantages of homeschooling *is* being able to shop a variety of methods and materials in order to address the needs of individual children as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the parent-teacher. You relinquish this freedom when joining a co-op. Sometimes, you might do it for the greater good of community, but again, is that always the superior choice?

    I think that the overall point, that as Catholic homeschoolers we would ideally be active in building a Catholic community, is spot on. However, I would hesitate to place further burden on tired shoulders. Shared teaching and co-operatives can lighten the load for some but become a source of stress for others. Many families can thrive in a slower-paced life with peaceful rhythms that come from time at home. Recognizing that this works best for your family can come from prudence rather than an anti-Catholic ideology.

  • Jennifer

    In a wholesome, virtuous society, schools could be trusted to nurture wholesome, virtuous youngsters.  Homeschooling isn’t only about “good teachers” or “good curricula”.  Children are formed, for better or worse, by far more than their teachers or curricula.  I agree with the comment about Catholic schools getting their act together.  Still, the best Catholic school, with the most vibrant educators, will still draw from society for its pool of students–peers for my children.  Peers, some of which say and do the most obscene things.  We had a president who observed that we have to be right all the time while the terrorist only has to be right once.  I apply this to my children’s peers.  It only takes one.  This was confirmed when we started our boys in BSA.  During an unsupervised break, my son overheard one boy tell another that he was going to “cram this stick up your f—n a-s and I bet your gonna like it.”   This is not a concept that my son had ever imagined–and shouldn’t have been forced to.   This was the BSA!  I should have had no reason to be concerned.  The fact that I have grave reason to be concerned speaks volumes about our society.  No, I won’t send my children to spend entire days with same age peers I don’t know–regardless of the educational skill of the teachers or the doctrinal soundness of the school.

    The homeschoolers we know all look for group activities.  These activities include parents and entire families.  This is true socialization. 

    You used “just war” analogically.  We are, in fact, at war and must defend and protect the souls entrusted to us.  I understand the need to grow and learn in a community, however, a quick read of the daily news tells us our community is striving to out-sin Sodom and Gomorrah. 

    I hope that enough of us are homeschooling to regain a virtuous society in which our children’s children can thrive.  For now, I will teach them and shelter their precious souls, carefully choosing their playmates and extracurricular activities.

  • Chris

    Blah, blah, blah, “I do not mean the facile argument about the “socialization” of students,” blah, blah, and more blah. Education needs to reach beyond the family? Of course it does. But I have never seen a homeschooling family where this is not the case in actual fact.

    “The key here is to maintain a positive desire to unite with other kindred families in the educational act.” Whatever that means. All I know is that homeschooling friends have rolled up their sleeves to help us, and we have rolled up our sleeves to help them.

    The article itself is full of lots of good advice, but it is exactly akin to telling a fire fighter to be careful around fire and then snuffing off into abstractions about heat and gases and smoke and other such things. The actual firefighters have dealt with all this and have real-world strategies for dealing with actual fires.

    So also with homeschoolers who actually teach our children in the home. All this advice is good, but so what? We internalized it all in week one and have way beyond it. The impression left by this advice is that, somehow, we are not competent to do all this without the timely intervention of Catholic bureaucrat, notwithstanding that bureaucrat’s association with a fairly faithful institution like Thomas More College. I must disagree. A family can survive on its own. A Catholic university cannot. We sure would appreciate the help, but please don’t talk down to us.

    And even more importantly, get yourself away from the university on a regular basis to attend a meeting of any local Catholic homeschooling group. You’l find we already have all your concerns well in hand, and then some.

  • I found this article extremely misleading.  I have been in a seminary program and have been at many parishes with Catholic homeschoolers.  They are typically the most social and most “communal” families in the parish.  The children are usually very involved with other families and the mothers have homeschooling groups where ever I seem to go or travel to.

    I also want to add that I am most impressed from the homeschool students from a social aspect.  Young kids from the public or sadly even the Catholic schools just stick to their own peers and age group and talk about rock stars or some other thing only pertaining to their secular culture.  The homeschoolers on the otherhand are able to have adult conversations with me and I usually walk away impressed.

    Perhaps the author of this article needs to find a better parish or diocese with more Catholic homeschoolers who are strong in their faith.

  • Christopher Check

    I remember reading this piece when Dr. Fahey first prepared it.  It is superb.  To those objecting to it, I would ask, “If you had a good parochial school, would you send your children to it?”  Some homeschoolers will have to admit that they would not, and this decision is not Catholic.  Dr. Fahey stipulates the crisis–indeed, he and Mrs. Fahey do so with their own actions–but he has his mind tuned with the mind of the Church, her nature and purpose.  Unless, someone is prepared to reject Pius XI, then he must admit that homeschooling is not the ideal, but a reaction to a failure of the hierarchy and the clergy.  Dr. Fahey’s points about the libertarian and then protestant origins of homeschooling cannot be ignored; they are essential to answering the question.  Home schooling has thrived especially in America because of this nation’s (from the very first) enthusiasm for an abstract an unreal concept called, “the individual.”  But to be Catholic means to be grafted to the vine.  It is for this reason also that many independent Catholic schools eventually fail.  They are not grafted to the vine.  Our Lord established a hierarchical Church, and that fact that it persists in spite of those to whom it is entrusted (also from the first) is proof of her divine character.  Well done, brother William!

    Christopher Check
    The Rockford Institute

    • givelifeachance2

      One does not have to reject Pius XI to hold homeschool as an ideal, it is only a matter of interpreting him properly.  I would say Benedict XVI has given us a clue to the interpretation in his recent statement to the UN – “The Catholic school assists parents who have the right and duty to choose schools inclusive of homeschooling, and they must possess the freedom to do so, which in turn must be respected and facilitated by the State.”  

      What would JMJ do?  Ahem…the overwhelming evidence is, they homeschooled.

    • Chris

      Charles Reade concludes his fascinating tale, “The Cloister
      and the Hearth,” with the following screed: “Among the ancient vulgar only the
      mariners were monotheists; they worshipped Venus; called her ‘Stella maris,’
      and ‘Regina cælorum.’ Among our vulgar only the mariners are monotheists; they
      worship the Virgin Mary, and call her ‘the Star of the Sea,’ and ‘the Queen of
      Heaven.’ Call you theirs a new religion? An old doublet with a new button” (see
      He is making the argument that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted because
      the origins of some of her practices come from paganism. He is right in his
      history but dead wrong in his conclusions. God made everything, even those who
      lived before the Church existed and even those who live today outside her
      formal boundaries. Thus, to argue that something is not of the vine because it
      originates from somewhere outside the Church is, in and of itself, to make a
      Protestant argument. Put another way, Mr. Check’s argument has Protestant
      origins and if we accept it, then we must ipso facto reject its conclusions
      because, as the argument goes, anything of Protestant origin is separated from
      the vine. Now, of course, no one is obligated to accept this “not of the vine”
      argument anyway, because the Church does not accept it. St. Paul’s experience
      in the Areopagus demonstrates the Church’s thoughts on what originates outside
      her boundaries: it may, in fact, be something quite good, right, and proper.
      And of course, Augustine’s treatise on The City of God is impossible without
      Plato, just as Thomas Aquinas’s work in the Summa is equally impossible without
      Aristotle. Call you these old (pagan) doublets with a new button? If you accept
      Mr. Check’s argument, you would have to.


      But unlike Mr. Reade, Mr. Check’s facts are wrong. Catholic
      homeschoolers can point to examples of the saints who homeschooled their own
      children or were homeschooled themselves. St. Thomas More is an example of the
      former; St. Therese of Lisieux is an example of the latter. Homeschooling as a
      mass movement in the modern U.S. may have Protestant origins. But Catholic
      homeschooling is a thoroughly Catholic phenomenon with Catholic origins.

  • Awesome article.

  • Caitlin Marchand

    Thank you for this piece Dr. Fahey, especially your point about mothers. As a home schooling mother of four I am increasingly distressed by the isolation experienced by myself and many of my friends. (That sounds funny, but if it weren’t for facebook keeping me in touch with some of my college girlfriends I would be even more cut off) Our current society can be very unwelcoming to mothers of young children, especially several young children, even at grocery stores or even sometimes sadly in churches. Schooling at home is something I feel I must do for my children at this time but certainly removes me still further from society and I do feel the creeping tendency to become a hermit is not a healthy one.