Every spring, the state homeschool conference rolls into town. I used to go with my mom as a kid. This year’s conference marked a rite of passage: my first conference as a homeschool mom. Come this fall, my oldest and I will sit down every weekday to do a little light preschool.
Public school has never been an option for me. The schools around me might very well be alright, but God has blessed me with the ability and desire to homeschool my children, and that is what I truly feel called to do. Maybe if the diocesan schools get their act together one of these centuries, we’ll send them off to Catholic high school, should funding permit. Who knows. I’m going to take it year by year.
There were a few good speakers at the conference. One author from Ohio shared how to teach “history from a Catholic perspective” not just “Catholic History”. A Canon from a local oratory shared how Salesian Spirituality can impact the daily life of a homeschool family.
Then there was the third speaker.
She began by reading some very real and frightening statistics on literacy, mental health disorders, and family breakdown. Then she told all of us, “It’s better for your children to sit at home and play cards all day than to be in a public school.”
She continued her talk by touting the benefits of a strong schedule, and a few other sound pieces of advice for anyone attempting to homeschool. Then to close, she quoted Fr. John Hardon, “Catholic Homeschooling is the key to the survival of the Church in America.”
I was homeschooled K-12 and I loved it. I think everyone should try it! Because while saying public schools are everything that is wrong with America is a vast oversimplification, there’s no doubt that the public school system is flawed and requires parents to be on high alert all the time, lest they slip between the cracks of the system, or be indoctrinated with whatever the latest craziness is (Gender Unicorn, anyone?).
But homeschooling isn’t a magic formula to raising perfect members of society. Nearly all my childhood friends were homeschooled, from some of the most traditional parishes in our diocese, and they were not perfect. They got into the exact same shenanigans as “regular kids”. While I will absolutely concede that these shenanigans happened at a lesser rate than our public school counterparts, they still happened. Frequently.
The parents consistently refused to admit that any of their kids had problems. If a teenage couple was found to be messing around (to whatever degree) both parents immediately blamed the other teen for “corrupting their little angel”. Instead of monitoring their kids and dealing with the issues that every kid faces, the attitude really was, “my kids are homeschooled, so they are safe, and could never behave like that.”
One year at the state homeschool conference, Peter Kleponis came and gave an amazing talk on pornography. Less than two dozen parents out of the hundreds present went to his talk. They either didn’t want to seem as if someone in their family had a problem or genuinely believed that it wasn’t an issue for their kids. Contrast that with the local priest’s statement that 90% of the sins he hears in confession are pornography related. And that’s just one issue.
When my parents made the decision to homeschool, it was primarily motivated by a desire to shelter us from the garbage of the culture. It was right and good that they did. A child doesn’t need to know all the evil things that happen in the world. But by the time we graduate and are sent off into the wild world of college or professional life, we do need to at least be equipped to process the evil we encounter.
And you know what, kids talk. Kids are sneaky. Kids are curious. Kids test boundaries. It’s part and parcel of raising a family. Your kid might be the best and most well-behaved kid that you’ve ever seen, but they are still subject to the same temptations, and trust me, they will come across these temptations, no matter how thoroughly you may shelter them.
As for playing cards being a better substitute to public schools, well, that probably depends on the school. But even if it were 100% true, really, that is the standard we are going to hold ourselves to? I realize the statement is hyperbolic, but I know families who actually thought this. They figured that anything they did was better than public school.
If you decide to homeschool your children, you now have all the responsibility for providing them with an actual education. If you can’t do that, you need to find another option. There are so many excellent and affordable correspondence courses, online courses, and co-ops all over the country, there’s no excuse for a mediocre homeschool curriculum anymore.
Overall, I think the Catholic Homeschooling community at large could use a healthy dose of humility and a strong reality check. I’ve never met a homeschooling parent who didn’t want the best for their children. But as we, the first homeschooled generation, begin to look at educating our own children, I hope we don’t embrace the false sense of security that is the downfall of so many who went before us.
Maybe Catholic Homeschoolers really are the key to the survival of the Church. Fr. Hardon was right about a lot of things, he’s likely right about this too. The potential is certainly there. Homeschoolers can’t take that statement as an inevitable destiny, we have to take that as a challenge. If we’re going to try to meet that challenge, it’s going to take a lot of humility, a lot of vigilance, and a lot of bravery.
May God help us!