It appears that an article entitled "In Search of an Authentic Commitment to Education (Nov/Dec 2002 issue of The Catholic Answer) by Fr. Vincent Rogers (since found guilty of soliciting prostitution; see preceding post) was the catalyst for a homeschooling mother's email letter to the magazine. The mother's only desire was to explain why she and her husband chose to homeschool. The lady's name was provided in the magazine, but we will only identify her here as "Lynn."
In the first paragraph of her letter, Lynn wrote that she wished to respond to Fr. Rogers' comment, "The home schoolers seem unwilling to entrust their kids to my parish school, which is authentically Catholic, even though their original justification for yanking (sic) their kids from Catholic schools or never putting them in to begin with was that the Catholic schools weren't really Catholic. So why don't they send their children to a parish school like mine?"
Unfortunately, sincere as Lynn was, her reasons for homeschooling were not exactly the "cream of the crop" or "water tight" examples to share with an editor - in this case, a Catholic priest - who was already hostile to the idea of homeschooling.
As will be seen when one reads Lynn's letter, she made no explicit mention of Church teaching, the role of parents as the primary (meaning "above" all others) educators, etc. That said, I defend the lady for the three following reasons: she has every right to homeschool, she sounded sincere and she wrote politely. However, the "honey of kindness" was not returned. In fact, one might ponder if Lynn's letter was printed out of the many received in response to Fr. Rogers' previous article simply because she left too many "loopholes" and it appears that Fr. Stravinskas, editor of The Catholic Answer, could not resist to take advantage.
"Lynn's Letter" on Homeschooling
Before sharing the following letter as it appeared in May/June 2003 issue of The Catholic Answer, I wish to make it clear that I do not agree with Lynn in every circumstance, especially her agreement with Fr. Rogers that "loyalty to the Catholic faith takes a back burner to loyalty to the parish or school" or her view of what homeschooling (i.e., Catholic education) is or isn't about.
That said, Lynn's letter is shared below, to be later followed by excerpts of responses from Fr. Stravinskas and Msgr. Hettinger.~ MCB
From the "Class Debate" column of "The Catholic Answer," May/June 2003 issue.
Q. This letter is in response to "In Search of an Authentic Commitment to Education" (November/December 2002), by Father Vincent Rogers. I enjoyed his article and agree that (1) loyalty to the Catholic faith takes a back burner to loyalty to the parish or school, and (2) parents are uncomfortable when their children's level of obedience to the Faith begins to supercede theirs. I would like to respond to the following Father Rogers comment: "The home schoolers seem unwilling to entrust their kids to my parish school, which is authentically Catholic, even though their original justification for yanking their kids from Catholic schools or never putting them in to begin with was that the Catholic schools weren't really Catholic. So why don't they send their children to a parish school like mine?"
Born in 1962, I am the product of public schools and reputable universities. I am the mother of six homeschooled children. We began homeschooling our first grader in 1994, after he spent one year in the public school. Overcrowding, mediocrity, inadequate socialization and insincerity provided the impetus to begin homeschooling. As for Catholic schools: conformity, possibly slighter academics and a different type of socialization occurred.
As a couple who practiced natural family planning, attended Mass and adoration at least once a week, and had five children, I was not sure of what value the parochial school offered. What started out as an academic endeavor turned into a family adventure. We were able to volunteer during the day, visit ill or needy friends, and take vacations when we wanted. My husband and high school son were able to attend a Wanderer Forum conference on a Friday in November because we have the flexibility of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is not about shielding our children from institutions that do not serve us well; it is about deepening the family bond. We are likely to develop a special relationship with God if we can first accomplish healthy relationships within the family.
During the past two years, our spirituality and religious practices have become important. My husband and I believe that if we had the most orthodox Catholic school in our neighborhood, we would not enroll our children and here is why: Our relationship with our children and with God will be stronger if we journey in the Faith and in life together. If I delegate this responsibility to others, I would have no need or reason for immersing myself in the Faith like I am doing now.
We must solicit the help of our priests and community to aid us in our job as primary educators, but we should not hand our children over to them. Sometimes I've felt that an additional weekly Mass is not enough. What about attending Mass during the week on a particular saint's day, for a special intention, or on the spur of the moment? You can't do that if your child is enrolled in a Catholic school.
We are able to choose from three daily Masses, and we can go to weekly confession on Wednesdays. My goal right now is to attend daily Mass once a week and, as my newborn grows older and I achieve a better balance in my life, I want to attend Mass every day. Receiving the Eucharist is one of the greatest gifts of our Faith.
I've always wondered why Catholic-school students do not attend Mass every day. It seems convenient enough if the church is located on the grounds of the school.
Homeschoolers must utilize resources if they are to be successful. Although many homeschool families are independent-minded, we are social creatures who do not want to be isolated or alienated from our parishes. I view homeschoolers not as people who are "over there doing their own thing," but families who have simply made different choices, based on a personal vision or as a result of special circumstances (such as disabled or gifted children).
We did not "yank" our kids from an inadequate schooling system. Rather, we desire excellence and strive to live out our unique family mission. It's not that I don't trust certain schools, but we approach our home-schooling efforts very passionately and have found this lifestyle very rewarding and filled with love. I don't think I could say that if I were sending my children to any school for a majority of the day.
Under what circumstances would I send my children to a Catholic school? The instructors would have to be competent and traditional; the class size could not exceed seven or eight; the school day would be no more than three hours; there would be minimal behavioral problems or class disruptions; and the children would come from families with a deep commitment to the Faith.
P.S. Suggestion for a future topic: Catholic colleges. After reading the book "The Snakebite Letters" by Peter Kreeft, and investigating the value of Catholic colleges, my husband and I wonder if those institutions will provide moral and academic excellence for our children. Of what value is a Catholic school if our children gain superior academic training while losing their virginity?
A homeschooling friend of mine has her freshman daughter enrolled in The Catholic University of America and told me that during the first week of classes (1) the priest-professor was required to present a discussion on evolution (I think because the university accepts funding which requires them to say things contrary to the Faith), and (2) the first student dance included the "bump and grind" - a very suggestive, immodest dance. I am no puritan or prude, but I do not care to donate $30,000 a year where this is part of the culture.
---Lynn M. G, via email