Disclaimer: This post is written as a presentation of my view for my husband and posted here for the amusement of any who may happen to read my blog. We are both Catholics, so that factors into my arguments in a way which it would not if they were intended to convince a more general audience. Also, since both of us were homeschooled, all jabs at homeschoolers should be taken as joking self-deprecation and nothing else.
For this discussion “homschooling” refers to parents taking over the academic education of their children without the use of schools. It does not include hybrid methods of schooling such as those in which a group of parents report to the government that they are “homeschooling” but are running what is in effect a non-accredited private school where the children are taught by a various adults in the group and outside teachers.
Above all, it is not a critique of any particular homeschooling family. Many parents choose to homeschool because they want the very best education for their children and do not see any better option. While I cannot be glad that they are in such situations, I do commend them for doing the best that they can.
All quotes are taken from Our Good Friend Vatican II unless otherwise noted. All comments may be construed or misconstrued as support for my position if I so desire. If you think of anything else that I could possibly add to this disclaimer you are required to comment to let me know.
Parents are the “primary and principal educators” of their children. This means that “parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.” It does not, however, in any way mean that parents are the ideal academic educators of their children.
At its best, Homeschooling is the least problematic option available among various less-than ideal options. Homeschooling always indicates that one or two parents are trying to do a job which should properly be undertaken by many adults concerned with the education of the child. Parents are responsible for raising their children, and society is responsible for supporting parents. This support includes the provision of excellent schools.
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. “Man’s community aspect itself—both civil and ecclesial—demands and leads to a broader and more articulated activity resulting from well-ordered collaboration between the various agents of education. All these agents are necessary, even though each can and should play its part in accordance with the special competence and contribution proper to itself.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 109)
While the parents’ role in educating the children is primary, irreplaceable, and inalienable, it does not properly exclude other key educators. Parents should not be isolated or attempt to fulfill their duty to educate their children without the help from both the Church and the government. “Among all educational instruments the school has a special importance” and parents must make use of all tools at their disposal to best educate their children.
Whenever homeschooling is necessary, it represents a failure of the Church or government, or both. Our duty as Catholics is not to simply step aside from the problem of poor school options and be happy that there exists a nice little homeschooling world. We must actively fight to improve school systems. This is not an obligation of homeschooling parents in particular, and they may not have any energy to devote to the effort of improving local schools. But it is a social obligation which we may not sidestep by simply expecting parents to figure it out for themselves and teach their children at home.
If a Catholic family is homeschooling, then one should immediately look at the local parish. Is there no school? If so, why not? If there is a school, is there something wrong with the quality? How could that be remedied? If there is a good school, what is the cost? How wealthy would a family with five children have to be in order to afford the school?
And we should always be concerned about improving the quality of the local public schools, regardless of our religious affiliation.
Next up: my more specific quibbles with homeschooling which may somewhat approach practical concerns.
- Servant of God Óscar Romero
- Anti-Homeschooling: Various Issues