When I was first married, my husband and I agreed that when children came along, we would homeschool them. I had been gifted with a homeschool education from kindergarten through 12th grade and couldn’t imagine any alternative for our future family. “But,” said my husband, who is himself a product of excellent Catholic schools, “if we ever find a school that we really like, can we be open to sending the kids there?” Twenty-three-year-old me said, “OK.” We were teachers at the time. The school where we were employed provided an excellent academic experience. It seemed plausible to me, in 2011, that one day I might actually be willing to entrust my children’s minds, hearts, and souls to someone else for their formation.
Fast forward ten years and one can hardly recognize the world we live in. In most schools (even in some Catholic ones) we’re seeing vaccine mandates, mask mandates, the teaching of anti-American propaganda such as Critical Race Theory, homosexual sympathies encouraged, gender questioning forced down the throats of children as young as five or six, and it just goes on and on. I haven’t even mentioned some of the particular problems Catholics face yet. Are you certain your children are being taught in their Catholic school to believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? What about the virginity of the Blessed Mother? The necessity of the sacraments for our salvation? And…and…and…
Not a week goes by that I don’t read something painful connected with the “new normal” in our schools. The latest was from the New York Post; a mother pulled her son out of school because a teacher hauled him up in front of his class and taped a mask to his face. Every afternoon, I see children getting off the school bus, sheep-like, wearing masks that obstruct their breathing even though they have moved outdoors and are walking home.
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And this is just the COVID-19-related stuff. This has nothing to do with the problems we had even before 2020, like teachers and sports coaches “sexting” their own students, and the spread of Marxist ideas via theology class. I could understand people choosing not to homeschool a few years ago. But with the rapidly spiraling insanity occurring now, I can’t help but wonder, “Why isn’t everyone pulling their children out of school and opting out of the madness?”
There are good reasons, of course. Countless families rely on two incomes to make ends meet. Many families have special-needs children with IEPs. Some people really do have an excellent school nearby that doesn’t have most or any of these problems. If that’s the case for you, you are greatly blessed.
There’s no reason to beat yourself over the head with guilt if you genuinely have a good reason to keep your sons and daughters in school. However, I know there are people out there (because I’ve met them and talked to them) who still don’t homeschool, even now when there are good reasons for it, because they think—are you ready? This is the big lie that has been told to us parents: “I couldn’t give my children a good education because I am just not capable of doing such a thing.”
Yes. And the truth is that I even think this myself sometimes. This way of thinking is from the devil. It’s garbage. There is no one on earth more capable than you are of educating your own children. Why? Because they are your children. You know them better than anyone else. You understand their strengths and their weaknesses better than anyone else does. You love them more than anyone else does, so you’ll be more willing than anyone else to make the sacrifices required to ensure they’ll know and have what they need.
This assumes, of course, that we really do love our children and are willing to be unselfish for them. When we hear that someone is telling our children lies that could jeopardize their eternal souls, or showing them sinful pictures that they can never un-see, or stifling them with masks so that they develop anxiety around learning, aren’t we moved with desire to make those sacrifices so that they might have an educational experience that is as peaceful and normal as possible?
Let me encourage anyone who has been on the fence (and I’m not talking to people who are comfortable where they are; if you’re happy with your school, then I’m truly glad for you). One year. Could you give it a try for just one year? Even if you can’t bring everyone home, could you give it a try for one year with some of your kids? Only one child—the youngest?
Young children mainly need to have good books read to them. After that, if they’re learning their letters and numbers, reading and basic math skills, they are in good shape. You can read them books about science, sing songs with them for “music class,” let them do some arts and crafts on their own. Ideally, they should also learn to do different sorts of chores, use good manners, and get along with other children. For Catholic children, we can add the following: learning their prayers, hearing Bible stories and stories of saints, learning how to behave themselves during Mass, and following along during the family Rosary. It’s easy to homeschool young children.
Grade school children need a little more structure, but the resources available to homeschool parents today are varied and often astounding in their quality. A little internet searching will bring up hundreds of curricula options. If you want a Catholic curriculum or online school, they are everywhere. You can find lots of online videos or tutorial services for things like math, if that’s your particular struggle (it’s mine). Planning carefully can mean a very affordable experience.
Do you and your children butt heads? Are you worried that you’d just be fighting with each other over schoolwork? Once a period of “de-schooling” has taken place, children are usually much more eager to learn; especially when they have some occasional say in what they will study. Are they interested in the Middle Ages? Outer space? Sewing or baking? It’s easy to tailor your child’s subjects to their interests at the moment by letting them select library resources related to their passion. My aunt teaches her sons fractions and multiplication by letting them cook and bake with her.
When you run into communication problems, sometimes all it takes is for another family member to be responsible for instruction in a particular subject. Can Dad handle certain subjects while Mom handles others? In our house, whenever tensions run high because someone doesn’t understand me, having my husband explain the troublesome concept to our sons often solves the problem. Can you get a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, or a family friend involved? Math didn’t make any sense to one of my homeschooled brothers until he started studying algebra with my math-loving uncle as a teenager. He went on to double major in math and economics in college, and now he is a successful data scientist and developer of computer software and hardware.
Are you intimidated by your state’s requirements? The best thing to do is to get in touch with your local homeschool group and get some other parents to coach you through the process of notifying your school district. Believe me, please: people will be delighted to help you. There are also social media support groups for homeschool parents. Also, I recommend joining Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Even if that’s the first thing you do, they have lots of resources for parents and they will help you if you get into any hairy situations while pulling your children out of school.
Are finances a concern? HSLDA offers Compassion Grants to help families who want to homeschool but need some extra help to make it happen. Do grandparents ask what gifts they can give at Christmas or birthdays? This year, could you ask for help with purchasing schoolbooks, or funding an extracurricular like soccer or ski club? Can you barter teaching services with someone you know? I teach high school literature to my friend’s son, and in exchange, he gives our oldest son trumpet lessons. No money changes hands.
Does your family rely on two incomes to make ends meet? This is tricky and I have the utmost sympathy if you’re juggling such a situation. But where there is a will there is a way. If you really want to try homeschooling, then just for a year could you live on one income? I don’t mean could you afford all the things you usually do; I mean could you afford food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc., on one income?
Could you cut out “extra” things just for one year (like Netflix, Amazon Prime, movie tickets, eating out more than a couple times a month, expensive hair or nail services, unnecessary or unplanned expenditures). Just one year. Shop used when you can. Many, many families live this way and find that they are happy. We’re a one-income family ourselves, and while it isn’t always what I would call easy, we still have fun and find it’s worthwhile.
The best part, once you have made the transition, is the feeling of absolute freedom to do what works for you and your family. Every child is different; every parent is different, too. But every family can find the unique pattern of life that makes homeschooling work for them. Having the freedom and peace to explore whatever interests them really brings to life a child’s interest in learning. Many parents fear they won’t be able to get their children to learn at home; but once their interest is awake and alive, you will not be able to stop them from learning.
More important than anything at all, and more crucial to your success, is your family’s prayer life. If you will always pray first before learning, if you will try to make daily Mass part of your homeschool routine (even just once a week), if you will ask the Blessed Mother for her intercession in your homeschool, if you will do everything out of love for Christ and for your children, you cannot help but succeed. Do not be afraid to try this with your “little flock” at home. You have everything you need because of who you are: the loving fathers and mothers of your children.
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]