Graeme Hunter on the Blessings & Challenges of Homeschooling
Recently I read three encouraging articles on homeschooling. One alerted readers to the first non-partisan Canadian study showing what homeschoolers have always known, namely, that they do a much better job educating children than do the public schools.
A second article reported the encouragement Archbishop Edwin O'Brien gave to homeschoolers in the diocese of Baltimore, reminding them of the importance of the sacraments and of cultivating readiness to sacrifice for others. He also mentioned that there is "no greater feeder for the vocations" than homeschooling.
A longer article by the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J., went more deeply into the nature and importance of homeschooling. It reminded readers that something is wrong in the West, and in the world, and that homeschooling is one of the ways in which Catholics can address the distemper of the times. Homeschooling permits Catholic families to raise their children to love the sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Confession, and for children to learn the necessity and method of prayer. Fr. Hardon also reminds homeschoolers that they are following the way of the Cross, a way full of sacrifices.
I am a former homeschooling dad, and my wife and I made our Christian faith central to the curriculum when we homeschooled. The blessings we received as a family were great. Jesus taught that his way is the way of the Cross, but he also taught that his yoke is easy and his burden light. We found all those teachings to be true.
Of the three articles I mentioned, one documented homeschooling's success and the other two exhorted those who had chosen it to persevere. I thought there should be a fourth article for young parents who are wondering about homeschooling but fearing they might not be up to it. They see the relentless assault public schools are making on their children's minds and morals, but they have enough crosses to bear already, without shouldering any new ones. I wanted them to hear about the yoke being easy and the burden light.
The Countercultural Way
The first step was to discover that homeschooling is a paradox. It is as countercultural as you can get. Everyone, from school officials to your well-meaning relatives, will tell you that you are putting your children at great risk. But do not believe them. Homeschooling is only countercultural because our culture is suicidal. Homeschoolers stand for what our culture was when it was serious about living. It affirms our Christian tradition, our Christian morality, and our highest cultural achievements. To affirm such things today is countercultural only because our culture has turned its face to the wall.
The findings of the homeschooling study are true. Homeschooling does not harm our children; school often does. School officials who say otherwise may only be defending the dark enterprise that employs them, and well-meaning relatives often speak out of ignorance. No doubt there are conservative and conscientious redoubts here and there in the bleak landscape of public schooling, but if it seems to you that your child is being transformed for the worse by attending school, you are likely correct.
Here are some reasons why:
First, education means struggle and achievement, but schools are egalitarian. Achievement presupposes discipline, but schools shun discipline, and pretend students are high achievers no matter what they do.
Graeme Hunter is a contributing editor to Touchstone and Research Professor of Philosophy at Dominican University College in Ottawa. He is the author of Radical Protestantism in Spinoza's Thought (Ashgate).
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