Why homeschooling? First, homeschooling is the most ancient form of Catholic education. For the first 300 years of the Church’s history, there couldn’t possibly have been Catholic schools. There couldn’t even be Catholic churches. The underground catacombs under the city of Rome were the churches. Schools were out of the question…
My two previous columns (available in the online newsletter archive) gave a brief history of the rise, and sadly the partial decline, of Catholic education in the United States. To accomplish the goal of a Catholic education for their children, parents are increasingly turning to homeschooling, but we homeschoolers have many lessons we can learn from the Catholic educators who came before us. For Catholic homeschooling to succeed and thrive in educating future generations, it must remain authentically Catholic, unapologetically rigorous, and marked by a commitment to diligence and order.
Last month’s column was the story of how a largely poor, immigrant population built a powerhouse parish school system that provided a first-rate scholastic education. By the mid 1960s, the Catholic system reached its peak with 4.5 million elementary school pupils, and another million students in Catholic high schools.
I never knew how much I didn’t know until I was homeschooled. I have been an “A-B” student since kindergarten, and I have attended private schools since second grade. I’ve always enjoyed the classroom atmosphere, and at this time last year, I would never have given it up for anything. I loved cheerleading, I loved sports and I loved to have fun. I was in every club and every contest; I was always on the run with my activities. At this time last year, I had just had my cap-and-gown 8th grade graduation, and I was trying to decide which of my three high school options was best for my needs, both socially and academically.
My personal pet peeves include books and authors who present homeschooling as an always fun and sunny alternative to institutional schools. If you believe some of what is written, you might easily think that our homeschooled children are sitting at their tidy desks, in their neat school clothes, diligently hammering at the books, while begging for more challenging work. Let’s face it: sometimes the truth is not quite so pretty, making it easy to lose sight of our goals.
I hope you don’t mind that I’m emailing you directly, but I wanted to reach out to you, as head of Seton, to tell you a little bit about my own experiences with the program, and what I am up to now.
In homeschooling, aim at a certain academic excellence. I claim that is the bonus that is always thrown in. If you seek first to defer harm, if secondly you permeate the situation with a Catholic atmosphere, the easiest part is the academic subjects.
My name is Katie Heenan Dodson and I am a proud graduate of Seton Home Study School. I am also a former gymnast and considered to be very accomplished, but accomplishments do not just happen. Of course, hard work, dedication, perseverance, patience, and a lot of other attributes are necessary, but a support system is also important. I can honestly say that without Seton Home Study, I would not have made it as far as an athlete.
We sometimes receive calls asking “Why should I study Algebra? I’ll never use it again,” or “Why should I study literature? There’s nothing practical in it,” or “Why should I study Latin? It’s a dead language,” and we recently had a new one, “Why should I study diagramming? My mom and dad never had to.”
The home schooling apostolate is a truly counter cultural movement, a contradiction to the current self-obsessed culture. The home schooling apostolate is evidence of an attitude of service to others most in need of our leadership, our love, our spiritual help, our teaching.