Catholic Education in America: Homeschooling is Not the Problem
parents. I disagree. God has entrusted three souls to my husband and me to raise and teach, and we will be held accountable for how well we passed on the Faith. The buck stops with us first, not our pastor.
A few more thoughts: How many priests or nuns are in the classrooms of Catholic schools around the country? If educating the children is their primary job, then why is it the Catholic schools my girls attended rarely ever saw the pastor assigned to the Church next door? Why is it the children only attended Mass about once every other month? Fr. Stravinskas is partially correct in his insight that many parents do not trust the Church to educate their children, though I would clarify that the church distrusted is likely the local parish, not Holy Mother Church.
When a Catholic school does not make daily Mass, or at least weekly Mass, a priority for the formation of its students, then something is very wrong. It's not a generic Christian education we're after, but a Catholic one, and that means the Eucharist, the liturgy, Mary and the saints. That means Mass. At my children's former school, Mass was more of a special occasion than the essence and foundation of the Faith. Is that the catechesis I'm supposed to be satisfied with?
Finally, Fr. Stravinskas never really addresses the issue that begs to be confronted: the outrageous cost of Catholic education. It is simply out of reach for most families. Consider this: it cost us more money to put our daughter through 1st grade than it did for my husband to get a very demanding, high-tech Masters Degree from a major university. Tuition for most Catholic elementary schools is just ridiculously expensive. I'd wager that Fr. Stravinskas would declare the money well-spent because the quality of education is unmatched. I would disagree again.
I am now using a homeschool curriculum that in my opinion far surpasses the curriculum used at our former Catholic school. Not to mention the fact that homeschooling gives me the opportunity to tailor the instruction to each child, to emphasize what my child needs more, and quickly advance through what she needs less. If I see my child struggling to understand something, we don't just move on ahead like a classroom teacher must. The goal is to learn, not just get through a textbook.
The religious instruction we've gone through at home this year has been better than the catechesis they received in previous years. The reading, vocabulary, English, math, spelling, history and science have all been outstanding, very thorough and completely faithful to the Magisterium.
The reality is we educated both our girls at home this entire school year for the cost of ONE MONTH of Catholic school. And we only had two school-aged kids at the time - what about the families with 4, or 5, or 6 children in school at once? In my opinion, this is an abysmal failure on the part of the Church. If Catholic parents are expected to send their children to Catholic schools, then the Church had better get serious about making education the number-one priority and stop burdening Catholic families with thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition every year.
The Diocese of Wichita has proven it can be done. They are presently the only diocese in the country where children of active parish members can receive a K - 12 education tuition-free! What's stopping every other diocese from doing the same thing?
Beyond the tuition, my husband and I honestly got sick to death of all the "extra" costs associated with the school. We were required to purchase a certain amount of Scripp each month, plus participate in a Fundraising program (if we didn't sell enough of the fundraising stuff, we'd be charged a couple hundred dollars to cover our cost). School lunches, field trips, different uniforms for winter and summer, etc, it all added up to a lot of money, and it got very annoying very quickly.
I'll gladly admit I'm happy to be free of fundraising obligations, since I can't stand having to sell people over-priced stuff they don't need or want. I'm happy to be saving lots of gas money each month since I'm not making two round-trips each day to a school 20 miles away.
I'm happy not to have to worry about $40 sweaters getting lost or stolen. I'm very happy not to be forced to change my shopping habits in order to purchase $200 of Scripp each month that I don't really want. I wanted a Catholic education for my kids, not all these expensive and crazy requirements.
I'm not trying to bash all Catholic schools; I fully believe there are many excellent schools out there, and I want to see Catholic schools thrive. I don't disagree at all that Catholic schools are essential to the Church and the mission of our time. We're open to enrolling our kids in a great Catholic school in the future, if possible.
But if Fr. Stravinskas, Ned Vanders and Bishop Vasquez are going to insist that Catholic parents have an obligation to send their children to Catholic schools; if they're going to dismiss the validity of homeschooling and impugn the motives of homeschooling parents, then it's high time they faced reality and dealt with the legitimate reasons why many of us have chosen to teach our children at home.
We're not trying to undermine the Church or our pastor's authority. We love the Church. We want our children to become priests, deacons and nuns and faithful Catholic adults. We're not the enemy of Catholic schools - we are Catholic schools.
Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and homeschooling mother of three. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: homeschool, Catholic school, Church, education, Jennifer Hartline
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