08 February 2011

"Home School Mothers Lack Self-Confidence"

There, I knew that would get your attention.

The quote that forms the title of this post is from an article by economist Gary North on LewRockwell.com. He is an advocate of homeschooling, and acknowledges the growing strength of the homeschool movement and the great good it does. So, why the quote?

North discusses the need for a more-widely available set of free to minimal-cost resources on the internet and elsewhere for homeschoolers to use. He cites a couple of examples, and then points out that, typically, it isn't a homeschooling mom who is behind such a resource, but rather some entrepreneur. He posits that most homeschooling moms lack the confidence to promote such things.

My first thought was, can this guy ever have been married? Does he have any idea of the complete lack of time the diligent homeschooling mom possesses? I mean, it would not surprise me to examine the schedule of a random homeschooling mom (and they are usually quite detailed) and see the entry, "8:15, and at least once every thirty seconds thereafter: Breathe."

Therefore, I provide the above intro so that any homeschooling mom reading this will get past the initial coffee-splattering spit-take when reading the above, and then move on to the meat of the article. There does seem to be a need for that low- to no-cost resource center for homeschoolers. North seems to be more familiar with the evangelical and secular homeschooling resources, and does not mention the growing number of Catholic homeschooling resources. In that area, anyone familiar with Laura Berquist knows that a homeschooling mom is certainly capable of mass producing valuable resources.

I know in my own little homeschool, where I reign as principal (i.e., where I do whatever Sharon tells me to), we employ a variety of means and methods, and use tutors, real and digital, for certain subjects. We make use of the local co-op. All of this works to a harmonious end, where in the midst of a calamity of clutter we are from time-to-time amazed at the wisdom accumulated and exhibited in our children. One tribute to Sharon's program was posted here.

But it is true, if I can stick to anecdotal evidence, that many of the homeschoolng moms of my acquaintance, moms whose children are by and large shining examples of a Catholic educational renaissance, not only can't step back one large step and see the results of their own work, but also are very slow to think that they are at all qualified to handle the job.

This is the work of at least four, and likely eight or more, decades of being conditioned by our society that "education" is best left in the hands of self-appointed and unaccountable experts. Think Dewey, and you'll see the conditioning goes back much further than the tumultuous '60s. It is the default position that schooling a child at home is only slightly less ridiculous than becoming Amish. In fact, the snarkier critics of homeschooling are likely to identify the two lifestyles.

But, at least through the elementary years, I ask you to consider which persons are more expertly qualified to teach-- and to form--one's children: the parents of such children, who love them more than anyone else on earth, who know their strengths and weaknesses intimately, who have a vested interest and Divine mandate to form and educate them, and who make a sincere effort to perform this task to the best of their ability; or, persons with a degree in education and who are licensed by the state, who are trained in the latest pedagogical techniques and who perform this task for a salary?

Absent unusual circumstances, I take the parent. Well, since we homeschool, this may be obvious. But the parent has the mandate to raise and educate. Sending a child to school is a decision to use a proxy to accomplish this mandate, and this option is fine, as long as the parents remember the responsibility--and the right-- never leaves them. Keeping proper vigilance over the school to properly form the child is almost as exhausting as teaching them oneself. And in the end, the teacher is not accountable to the parent or the child. He is accountable to the school, the district, the Board, the principal, the state, or whatever the ultimate decision-making entity may be. The parent is accountable to the child, and to God.

Christ's parable of the Good Shepherd comes to mind. The institutional school and its teachers are the hireling, who may not react the same way as the parent when the wolf approaches. I don't say this to be provocative. I am not saying that the majority of teachers don't care deeply about educating their students as well as they can. But though they do care, they have constraints. The homosexual agenda, P.C. social studies, neo-pagan environmentalism, and watered-down, inoffensive spirituality in the place of true religion-- how many school teachers have the ability (even if they have the inclination) to resist the latest diktat of the board, state, or group of experts? You can answer that question yourself.

I have remarked in this space before that it is my opinion that the homeschooling mom is a modern day St. Benedict. St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, was raised in the time after the Roman empire fell, and civilization itself was threatened with extinction. He formed little communities to collect the remnant of those who wished (among other goals) to preserve it. What someone floundering about in the wreckage of society in the fifth and sixth centuries might have called "escapism" and "sheltering from reality", was in fact the incubator of civilization's rebirth. The little communities that kept the faith, knowledge, culture, and charity in their care, grew and expanded to provide the foundation of Christendom. They protected the remnant, they acted as leaven, and they proved irresistible. They triumphed, and that triumph lasted more than a thousand years.

So, homeschooling moms, be confident-- your work in that little dining room, study or basement is transformational. You have the care of immortal souls, first and foremost. But know that your efforts will inevitably tend to the transformation and sanctification of society. It is truly a movement that has generational potential. That is why it is opposed. That is why the experts tell you that you can't do it.

You can and will prove them wrong.
Update: As for education being thought the exclusive domain of the experts, and as for the notion that parents' direct influence should be minimized, I present for your review this story in the Post-Dispatch today. I got a kick out of the comments of State Senator Jane Cunningham.


evann said...


Anonymous said...

Finished over 15 years of homeschooling recently, told my pastor that I was pulling out of parochial school just before I did, and ,scary as it was,now I know it was probably the best thing that ever happened for our family. Now,to catch up w/ everything else that I let go!

FairyLover said...

I've been confidentally homeschooling my 8 year old for four years now.

Kathi Sewing, Knitting, Candle Making, Homeschooling Mama

Barbara Frank said...

Excellent post :)

I do promote low-cost helps for homeschoolers in my books and articles. However, I only have time for this because my youngest turns 18 next month. I've been homeschooling for 25 years and didn't have the time back in the day because I was too busy raising and teaching my children.

God bless you and your family!

Delena said...

I'm going to pose a question, and I am in NO WAY trying to be mean. Let me just be clear in that. This question comes from a mother who is going to have to homeschool (me)--and I'M NOT TRYING TO BE MEAN. Are we cool? :-)

If homeschooling is the best thing out there for the children because you, as a parent, know your child better than anyone else (like a teacher at a public/private school), then why is sending your child to a co-op an idea supported by many homeschooling families? From the very little knowledge I have of co-ops (so, please--correct me if I'm wrong), they are a place to take your kids to learn a subject...taught by a person other than yourself.

So, if you could just kindly clarify on this, that would be awesome.

Once again--NOT TRYING TO BE MEAN. Have I made myself clear enough...or do I need to come grovel in St. Louis? :-)

thetimman said...

Quit trying to be mean.

thetimman said...

Oh, the question--

I don't know about all co-ops, but our co-op is run by the homeschooling parents themselves, with tutoring help overseen directly by the moms, and the cathechism is taught by Institute priests and oblates.

Even in a "drop-off" co-op, where unrelated parties teach a course or courses, this is, in a sense, a proxy-educational situation, but in miniature. The formation of the child is not in the hands of a group of strangers, but for one hour on one day a week a tutor assists with a particular set of knowledge in a particular subject. The level of control by the tutor is minimal, and the influence of the parent is undimmed. Yes, you could say it is a matter of degree, but that is a whole lot of degrees; plus, there is a qualitative difference in a school that directs curriculum and has the child for 40+ hours versus getting a tutor to assist your child in your curriculum for one hour.

Delena said...

Geez...you don't have to get all defensive--I wasn't trying to be mean or anything! :-)

Just kidding.

Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Has anyone ever told you you're wordy? I feel sorry for your wife and kids. :-)

thetimman said...

I am the means of Sharon's sanctification.