Catholic Education in America: Homeschooling is Not the Problem
The Catholic family is a homeschool. The only question is whether the children attend a school, in a addition, outside of the home
The "Catholic schools vs. Homeschool" attitude is tragic. Those who insist that Catholic parents have an obligation to send their children to Catholic schools need to stop guilt-tripping parents and impugning their motives and deal with reality. We're not the enemy of Catholic schools - we are Catholic schools.
I was quite dismayed - rather irritated, actually - to read the article in Our Sunday Visitor recently regarding the conflict between homeschool families in Texas and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, as well as Ned Vanders, the Catholic schools superintendent.
It centers on a belief that Catholic parents are obligated to send their children to Catholic schools if there's a school in their area, and parents who do not are guilty of abrogating that obligation. In other words, parents who choose to homeschool are committing a grave offense against Catholic schools.
The Holy Family Homeschoolers Association had invited Bishop Vasquez to celebrate a blessing Mass with them at the beginning of the next school year. Curiously, the response didn't come from the Bishop's office but from Ned Vanders.
He wrote: "Bishop Vasquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass. Bishop Vasquez 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 homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vasquez must respectfully decline the invitation. Sincerely in Christ, Ned F. Vanders, E.D."
Respectfully, there was nothing respectful about Mr. Vanders' reply. It was a thinly-veiled attack on the integrity of homeschoolers, the right of parents to make such a choice, and the validity of Catholic homeschooling. It was insulting and dismissive. And it still baffles me why Bishop Vasquez did not respond himself. I sincerely hope the Bishop does not share Vanders's views on Catholic homeschooling.
(OSV reported that the Diocese of Austin declined interview requests for Vanders and Bishop Vasquez.)
It's disturbing that the Diocese of Austin has intentionally created an "us-versus-them" atmosphere regarding homeschooling families. The OSV article went on to quote Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation. Fr. Stravinskas is also not very supportive of homeschooling families.
Fr. Stravinskas says "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." I did a double-take upon reading that one, because it seems to me that runs contrary to Vatican II's Declaration on Christian Education which states that parents are the primary educators of their children.
No pastor can replace parents, and no parish can substitute for the child's home. Children will live what they've been taught to live at home. If the Faith is lived and taught within the family, chances are good the children will "catch" it and nurture that Divine Love for themselves. If home is a place where God and the Church are neglected or blasphemed, well, the children will surely catch that, too.
Fr. Stravinskas also says that "Catholic parents who choose to homeschool 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. That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism 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 homeschool families. 'Why would you want to join the club if its members can't be trusted to do their jobs?'"
First, I'd like to know exactly how many vocations are coming from Catholic school families compared with homeschool families. I wouldn't be so quick to discount the homeschoolers. The homeschool families I know would be elated to have a future priest or nun among their children! I sure would!
But mostly this is just a continuation of the theme that it's the pastor's job to teach children, not the ...
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