Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homeschooling and One Priest's Confusion

I love reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on about homeschooling. After spending one year as the cheerleading advisor at our local high school I was completely convinced that the threat of jail would never compel me to put my children in a situation like that (oh my goodness! I went to public school! But how things had changed, at least in my area, in the past ten years!!!).

I'm sure there are schools out there that are great. I went to one. Academically I think the one in our current area is very good. Lots of great teachers. A wonderful assortment of AP and Honors classes. Great coaches. However, as I heard the stories my sixteen girls told in practice about their... exploits (that made me want to scream: "You're fifteen! What the heck is going on here?!?!?!") I became more and more convinced that homeschooling would be the right path for me family. Paul, who remembers a particular primary school teacher coming to school obviously drunk, and dancing around in front of the class of kids, who were something like eight years old, quickly agreed. And the bullying stories I've heard in the past years... are enough to make my hair turn grey!

So, as I mentioned above, I pretty much devour anything I can find on homeschooling. I loved reading Melody's post yesterday on the approach of the school year (and the picture of her family the year that they had matching sweaters is pretty adorable!). Then I followed the link in that story back to this story and then to this story and my jaw dropped.

Have you heard about this? The priest that insists homeschooling is tantamount to disobeying the Church?

I know I'm a little late on addressing this, but I was pretty shocked when I began to read through all the material I could find yesterday:
"...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..."

Read the whole thing here...
Fr. S goes on to say that he thinks it's unhealthy for children and mothers to spend so much time together. However after discovering a bit more of his work... I find it hard to take anything he says very seriously. If this interview is really a response by Father Stravinskas, which it appears to be, then he's indicated that he thinks using NFP is a sign that families think they're better than everyone else, and that receiving the Eucharist frequently is a very bad thing... and that it "breeds contempt..." Which too me, sounds a bit backwards and crazy. But what do I know? According to Fr. S I'm not responsible for the children entrusted to me.

I'll admit, my first thought, when I read the OSV article was: "I know kids that went to Catholic schools... I went to college with them... and most of them are atheists now." More than that, most of them seem to have been raised with an unhealthy contempt for the Church and all of her teachings. Again, I'm sure there's wonderful public and Catholic schools out there... but for those of us who are a bit gun shy because of the formation we've seen take place... I'd say seeking out other options is a valid response.

Father Stravinskas couldn't be more wrong... and his understanding of the domestic Church, which is very much a part of the Church, is sadly misinformed. He says, that homeschoolers try to set up a "church within the church." But the family is a church within the Church. Look at what Pope John Paul II said:

"Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church."
-Pope John Paul II

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
-Pope John Paul II

So I don't think I'll be abdicating my responsibility for my children's formation any time soon... I think the past century has taught us that that is a very, very bad idea.


  1. You're a smart woman. I know of a few orthodox priests who encourage homeschooling, even over the Catholic schools. One good friend had her children at Opus Dei schools (they were single sex schools). One of the priests there advised her to pull her children and homeschool them, because he could see that the schools were becoming more "influenced by the world" as the student population grew.
    Your children are lucky - and blessed - to have you and Paul for parents.

  2. Priests are entitled to their opinions- right OR wrong- just like everyone else, I guess. I might agree with him if the schools available were actually Catholic and affordable to families, especially families who have lots of kids. Maybe the homeschooling 'movement' is a sign that an overhaul of Catholic schools is needed.

    As for me and mine, we homeschool and LOVE it.

  3. That's a good point! I just wish he wouldn't disguise his opinion as "Church teaching" and imply that people who homeschool aren't being loyal to the Church. That drives me crazy!

  4. Don't sweat it. Home schooling is a great option that I also intend to do. I, like you, was not home schooled but I went to a public school that the rest of the area called (hometown name) Catholic. I went to religion classes during school hours and went to mass on Holy Days of Obligation. I guess by today's standards my school was breaking some stupid unconstitutional law that shouldn't have ever existed in the first place. My mother also used my homework as a home schooling exercise I guess. I think home schooling is the only way to go in this day and age. Cam, if you think about it you're already home schooling. Everything you do with them is teaching them at home. Good luck with your pre-home schooling lessons. ;)

  5. I'll simply point you in the following direction ;)

  6. "Parents are the first and the most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents."
    Pope John Paul II
    Letter to Families
    HT Seton Home School

    I personally consider Fr. S to be a bit cracked. I've studied the documents and encyclicals seeking the comprehensive teaching of the church on parenting and education (mom with an academic bent here) And clearly, while the parish is to ASSIST the parents, and while global teaching of the faith resides in the Bishops (been doing their jobs lately have they?) WE teach our children and if the local parish is failing its responsibility we have NO obligation to send our children to their programs as long as we teach properly the faith. There are a LOT of great programs out thee or you can just take the catechism and teach from that--not everyone's mind converts from grown-up to kid easily-- but there are a LOT of good Catholic programs to use.

  7. Hi Cam! Found your wonderful blog a couple months ago. You're a great inspiration to me as I am a newlywed and I find myself quoting your blog to my husband quite a bit!! First time commenting :) I was homeschooled through high school after mom pulled us out of catholic school. Best decision she ever made. My education was far superior compared to what I received there and that definitely includes our religion studies. The only time we had a problem was when my brother was ready for confirmation and the priest from the school we had attended refused to confirm him because he hadn't gone through their curriculum. Mom ended up having heated conversations with the priest before he finally agreed to sit down with my brother and quiz him himself. My poor brother came out of his office after nearly an hour of being drilled by this priest. My mother was furious but after the interrogation, the priest agreed to confirm him, finding his education "satisfactory." I can't wait to homeschool our kids (when we have any)!

    Best wishes,

  8. From what I read that priest believes that the parents should not be the primary educator of their children. The Catholic church has repeatedly stated that the church is second in the education of children. I think the priest mistakenly attributes the shortage of religious vocations to homeschooling because as he states it there is a dirth of vocations among homeschoolers. Perhaps the dirth is more from parental preference of vocations. Maybe the children don't explore religious life enough. Or maybe there isn't a very pious example of religious life available to them. Whatever is causing the lack of vocations among homeschoolers in religious life we as parents need to make sure we are not contributing to this lack by making religious life a positive and noble avenue available to them.

  9. I am a big proponent of Catholic education, as my experience both personally (many moons ago) and with my girls has been simply wonderful. We are blessed with some excellent parochial schools and an outstanding - and very, very orthodox - Catholic high school.

    There is also a Catholic homeschooling group here with a fair number of families. These are good parents who make sure that there is plenty of socialization, etc., and make religious education a priority. (Seems we are better
    off here than most, with good options for parents no matter what their choice.)

    All that said, I think that Fr. Stravinskas has gone off the rails here, and is just plain wrong. I think it must have to do with his being such a cheerleader for Catholic schools, but this was uncalled for and out of line.

  10. I am a product of Catholic schools for the elementary years and public school for the high school years. I earned a Master's Degree in Education from a Catholic University and then taught in the Catholic schools for three years. It was during that time that I decided that when, and if, the Lord blessed me with children, I would home school them. I taught in two different Catholic schools, but it still seemed to me that they were similar to public schools, but just went to Mass once a week and had religious ed. classes. It really didn't seem much different.

    It turned out that my son actually would benefit from my decision the most. He was born with many food, animal, and environmental allergies - some severe and some very different (like garlic - all over a school cafeteria). He also developed asthma, ADHD, and was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum (with Asperger's). Our pediatrician told me that this was the best choice for him - I certainly agreed!

    We have been home schooling since birth! Obviously, it was informal until they were six or so; but now we do a bit of everything. My husband, who was skeptical at first, now says he'll work as many jobs as necessary to keep them home. My son is being allowed to shine in the areas where he is gifted. They both are allowed to be creative and work at their own pace.

    My daughter has a friend that is the same age as she is, but attends public school. It's amazing to see/hear the difference when they are together. Don't get me wrong, this is an absolutely lovely young lady and I love that my daughter plays with her - such a blessing! But it's obvious to me that she just hasn't been exposed to the same material yet. It's a shame how dumbed-down schools are getting.

    I actually had a nun, who was the principal at one of the schools where I taught, tell me to pass a girl (who clearly met the requirements for repeating the grade) just because she was developing physically! True story. I refused to sign my name to her report card.

    Sorry so long. Home schooling is one of my soap boxes! I plan to chronicle our schooling a bit more this year on my blog. Feel free to come on over and check it out.

  11. WOW! So....I should go to work full-time so I can afford to send my kids to "Catholic" school where half of the children and many of the teachers are non-Catholic?

    I hope this priest was taken out of context!


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