29 May 2011

OSV Article on Homeschooling and the False Dilemma

Evann at the Homeschool Goodies blog links to an article in Our Sunday Visitor about how the homeschooling movement is not always welcomed by Catholic dioceses.  I enjoy articles like these; if I ever forget why we are homeschooling, these types of articles remind me pretty quickly.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the article:

Question of commitment 

According to the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis), parents are the primary educators of their children, and Catholic home-schoolers take that commitment seriously. For them, their homes are places where authentic Catholic education occurs, and many members of the clergy and hierarchy agree with them. Several dioceses explicitly recognize home schooling as a valid option for Catholic education. 
But not all priests and bishops agree. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops wrote that parents have an obligation to send their children to parochial schools, and some clergy members today say Catholic home-schoolers abrogate that responsibility. 
The latest skirmish flared earlier this year when the Holy Family Homeschoolers Associationinvited Austin Bishop Joe Vásquez to celebrate a blessing Mass at the beginning of the next school year. The response came not from the bishop’s office but from the Catholic schools superintendent, Ned Vanders, who wrote
“Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass. Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. “Bishop’s presence at the home-schooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.
Sincerely in Christ, Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.” 
A spokesman from the Diocese of Austin declined interview requests for Vanders and Bishop Vásquez. 

In defense of schools 

But if Vanders’ letter reflects Bishop Vasquez’s thoughts on home schooling, he is not alone. 
Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, has become something of a bete noire for the Catholic home-schooling community, championing the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools.  
There are several reasons to prefer Catholic schools, Father Stravinskas told Our Sunday Visitor, including that the Church Fathers made clear that catechesis is the job of the whole Church, with the main responsibility resting on the shoulders of the pastor, not the parents. 
And Catholic parents who choose to home-school when there is a Catholic school available at least implicitly send the message that they do not trust the Church to educate their children properly, and the children get that message. 
“On the same property where they go to church on Sunday is a school where the parents don’t wish to send them,” he said. 
That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism, he said, because the children learn that priests cannot be counted on to hand on the faith. It shows in what he sees as a dearth of vocations from home-school families. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?” he said. 
He also believes it is psychologically unhealthy for mothers to spend 24 hours a day with their children as they get older, and it’s academically nearly impossible for one person to teach all that is included in a modern high school curriculum. 
What’s more, he said, some home-school families say they have no issues with the faculty or teaching at their local Catholic schools, but they don’t want their children exposed to others whose families might not have the same values as theirs. 
“That sets up an elite, a church within a church, and that is to be avoided,” he said.
As a traditionally-minded Catholic, I guess I am guilty of clericalism and anti-clericalism at the same time!  

Let's start with Fr. Stravinskas, whose opinions have on the subject have been published in OSV in the past.  Fr. Stravinskas has no clue about the Catholic homeschooling movement, if he really thinks there is a dearth of vocations from homeschooled families.  Seriously?  Do I need to point out the error in this claim?

And anti-clericalism?  Seriously?  Do you really think homeschoolers are more worried that priests can't teach their children the faith, or is it rather that they won't?  I say "won't", because in nearly all parochial schools the priests don't teach religion classes.  Aren't the teachers usually laymen who are the victims of post-Vatican II non-catechesis just like the bulk of us?  Why would a hired layman teach my child religion better than I would?  Moreover, I can only imagine that Father Stravinskas has not read the most popular religion textbooks used in Catholic schools--because if he did, then he wouldn't write what he did.

I am no psychologist, but as unhealthy as it is for children to spend time with their mothers, fathers, and siblings, I would think that spending time with programs like "Talking about Touching" and similar "safe-environment" garbage is more dangerous.  What do the children learn about Catholicism, about morality, about history-- these are relevant questions that will enable parents to decide what type of schooling is psychologically, and more importantly, spiritually, superior.

Father Stravinskas, the article says, champions "the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools."    I agree; that is why we homeschool.

With regard to Ned Flanders' excuses for the Bishop quoted at the first part of the article, I can say that not every Bishop feels the same way, thank God.  It would be wrong for a diocese to be more concerned with propping up a school system that doesn't impart the faith by attacking those parents who are sincerely trying to impart the faith at home.  I would propose that Catholic homeschoolers ought to stand as a positive challenge to the parochial schools to get back to what made them great in the first place.  Children do not exist to prop up the schools; the schools exist to provide truly Catholic education to the children.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Timman. Father Stravinskas epitomizes the bias that is in many Catholic circles. I got into a fairly lively 'discussion' with a work colleague who chose to send his kids, all 8 of them, to public school - not so much for the financial factor (which actually was not a factor) but for the reason that he did not trust that the Catholic school system would impart proper and true Catholic ideal and orthodoxy. So, like those of us who choose to homeschool our kids for essentially the same reason, he opted for what I believe to be perhaps a far more insidious and subtle path to moral degradation and apostasy. 'Better to undo that mess than to undo bad Catholic instruction'. Unfortunately, those who choose that path are patently hostile to those of us who choose to home educate, for they perceive it as a rejection to their decision to engage the public school system.

I could not have refuted the argument any better than you had, so I won't try to embellish. I will say though that, as I will be answering for the souls of my children at my particular judgement, I will do my best to form them in to be holy and good Catholic boys, exposing them to like-minded families, clergy, education, and Liturgy that I believe will nurture and grow their love of God and the Church. I believe that home educating them provides this, where formal Catholic education has too often failed. Bishop Vasquez, Father Stravinskis truly do not fully understand the Church's mission in this; Parents are indeed the first and primary educators, working in cooperation with the Church.


timh said...

Ned Flanders! Hah!
Or, should I say, "D'oh"?

Patrick Kinsale said...

While I have always respected home education, this is the first year we will be doing it with one of our children. I was surprised to learn that Fr. Stravinskas was so opposed to it. Your post and those on the OSV site were perfect, thanks. And I must say that I trust the Church to educate our children, but not the Archdiocese Education Office.

I assume that what Fr. Stravinskas says also goes for private Catholic schools that are independent of the diocese where they reside?

Mom-of-Moms said...

Very good, Timman. I am really happy that I home educate my children. It is a shame that there are so many misperceptions about these children. The note from Fr Strav. sounds like the thinking in Germany. Please, does he really think it is bad for children to be with their mothers? And he must be unaware that these home schoolers spend a lot of time away from their mom as well because of the activities they are involved in. I thought the child's soul was important? Does purity and moral innocence mean nothing?

mary said...

Our Family know Father Stravinskas very well. He was our pastor for three years. He is an outstanding holy priest and a strong leader. That being said. He has been making the same arguments about home schooling for years. In his parish, likely 2/3 of families home schooled.

TIMMAN, 'children do not exist to prop up the schools; the schools exist to provide truly Catholic educations to the children'. Great quote...we told Father Stravinskas the same thing. Our first responsibility is to the souls of our children, not to evangilize children and teachers at the local parish.

There would be more weight to his argument concerning elitism if orthodox orders of religious sisters still ran Catholic schools in this country. I can't imagine Bishops in 1884 could every have imagined the state of Catholic schools today with 'flash mobs' at mass and gender neutral language during catechism.

Father Peter, we love you. But we are not in the 1940s anymore.

John and Mary

Anonymous said...

We start homeschooling this August. We have our own reasons but one of the big ones for my family is that our diocese will not allow the use of a religious exemption for vaccines...even though we have statements of support from other Bishops (not ours)Our Bishop even went so far as to say that unvaccinatated children are not welcome in his parish schools...enough said~we are gone :)

There is great support for homeschooling from priests though. There are a lot of homeschooling families in our area~even though our diocese has very successful Catholic schools.

Aside from the vaccine issue, there are so many positive reasons for homeschooling that we could not pass it up. Say a prayer for us!!!~ we have 6 kids 11th grade to pre-k

Anonymous said...

Dear Timman,
Your commentary is great. As I begin the last stage of my journey to a Ph.D., I should thank my Mother for all her sacrifices during the ten years she homeschooled me; she did an excellent job in cultivating my Faith and preparing me for higher education (despite not having a degree herself). The large number of other homeschoolers I know in grad school stands as a testimony against Fr. Stravinskas' uninformed belief that it is somehow psychologically unhealthy or academically dangerous to spend "so much" time with their mothers and families. May the good example of homeschoolers convert his heart soon.


Believe it or not, I even tried the seminary for a while, too. But maybe it doesn't count since I left... :-)

Anonymous said...

All those that homeschool- keep it up. You are the future of the Catholic Church. Almost all vocations will come from homeschooled families over the next twenty years(and those who attend the TLM). My wife and I homeschooled all six of our children over the last 25 years(our youngest finished up this year). We have already started on the next generation. I can promise you if you choose to educate your children yourself God will bless you greatly and you will never regret it.

Anonymous said...

I find this fascinating. The question that I would find fascinating to have answered would be whether TLM/home schooled families would send their charges to a school that was orthodox in all ways but the TLM (i.e. it regularly offered to its students a reverently celebrated and liturgically proper NO(M))? Take cost out of the equation, and further assume that this shangri-la of parishes was so supportive of large Catholic families that it made it cheap (or free) for large families to send their children there.

What say thee?

Patrick Kinsale said...

Anonymous 17:13, it depends on the family. Some would, some would not.

Anonymous said...

PK, thanks for the illuminating resonse, LOL. It does raise an interesting question however. Would/should there ever be a (theoretical) point where a family would have a duty to send its children to the parish school?

Assume that:

(1) the school is 'free' (and really free, not just the tax dodge that some parishes practice, not that there is anything wrong with that);

(2) the school teaches the catechism, well and vibrantly (and not just the social justice part of the catechism, heck, public schools do that);

(3) this should be understood as a part of (2), but is important enough that I list it separately - - the school offers to its students frequent, properly celebrated Masses, and generally celebrates the liturgical calendar and makes it an integral part of the curriculum;

(4) the academics that the school offers are at least as good as the public and secular private alternatives.

Anyone? Bueller? Timman? Mysterious Canon Lawyer X? or Y?

Melissa said...

we live in such a diocese/parish but with the novus ordo mass. our diocese is a stewardship diocese and so i could send all my kids to parish schools for free (and some do)but cost is not the only issue here. my kids have received a good education but there are things that are more important than what their score is on a test or their GPA~ and that would be their soul...what kind of person will they grow up to be? will they be faithful to the Church and will they listen to God's calling? Will they heed it? Will they live/love their vocation? If they stay in the parish school, will they become confused about the differences there vs what they are hearing in mass or at home? will they know that while so and so may get to listen to lady ga-ga, it is not ok for them to or better yet, if the teacher plays it in the classroom during study hall, will they know that it is inappropriate and say something? (my daughter did tell me but she was worried about getting the teacher in trouble) and what about becoming desensitized to it? there is the risk.
we don't attend the latin mass (it is 45 minutes away) and i have never been to one (i would love to though)so i can't speak for those families concerned about the novus ordo mass but i will say that we are blessed to have a great priest and mass is always reverent. when we homeschool, we will continue to go to daily mass since our faith is why we are homeschooling in the first place.

thetimman said...


Sorry it took me awhile. Was on the road. To answer the first comment, and to channel Patrick somewhat, it would depend-- but that's a good thing. What I mean is that it would put it in the running as a choice of one of two Catholic schools-- one home, one parochial. It would the same as if there were two Catholic high schools in town-- there wouldn't be a slight to one to choose the other. If both were Catholic, then other factors can tip the scale apart from orthodoxy. So, in other words, I would have no religious objection to sending my children there. Which I'd choose would have to wait for a real life example. I'd love to have the choice some day.

As for whether it would ever be morally required to send my child to a parish school, I can't imagine that in light of Church teaching on the rights and duties of parents.