In my post below, commenter 4andcounting reminded me that I wanted to talk about something that I truly believe about homeschooling.
I believe that it is a call.
Now, as Catholics we're very familiar with the term vocation. We believe that at some points in our lives God calls us to a particular state in life wherein we can best serve Him and grow in holiness ourselves.
Our vocation is the biggest and most obvious call we receive from God, but there are different aspects to each call. For instance, if a young man discerns a call to the priesthood, he must still discern whether he is being called to be a diocesan priest or an order priest; if he thinks he's being called to a religious order he will still have to find out which one. A woman called to religious life will go through a similar process of discernment, and young people who think they are called to be married still have to find out what particular person God wants them to marry.
But even when all these things have been settled, God continues to call us to holiness in ways both big and small. A priest may feel moved to fast from a particular food on behalf of his parish family; a nun may, with the permission of her superior, pray the rosary each week outside of an abortion clinic along with a local pro-life group. Husbands and wives may decide to sign up for an hour of Eucharistic adoration if their parish offers it; mothers and fathers may come to the conclusion that it's best for their family if the television is removed from the home for a time, or even permanently.
I believe that the call to homeschool is not unlike these types of calls. I think that generally speaking homeschooling is the best way to educate children in faith, to nurture and protect their developing souls while providing them with the tools they will one day need when they enter the world. I believe it's the surest way for Catholic parents to fulfill their obligation, in this day and age, to see to it that their children are taught the faith and that they grow in the Christian life.
I think that, most unfortunately, it isn't possible any longer to assume that any school, Catholic, Christian, private or public, is going to educate our children to share our values. This doesn't mean that some wonderful schools aren't out there, but it does mean that many schools parents would once have trusted implicitly with their children are no longer worthy of such unquestioning trust.
But as much as I believe these things, I still believe that the decision to homeschool comes as a response to a call to do so, and that that call comes from God. Not every family in every situation will find themselves able or willing to homeschool, and not every family has felt in their hearts that quiet, persistent invitation to do so.
Some who are called to homeschool know this even before they marry and have children; some know it as soon as their first child nears preschool age. But I think the vast majority of parents out there who decide to homeschool find that the call to do so may take some time to hear, and some time to act upon.
It may begin as a slow dissatisfaction with the school your children are already in, a slow realization that whatever the school's values are, they aren't your own. (A military man of my acquaintance reached this point when one of his children's elementary school history books contained exactly two pages on World War II, and one of them was all about Rosie the Riveter.) Other parents get fed up with the impersonal bureaucracy that even Catholic schools may suffer from, or find themselves without help when one of their children is having a difficult time. Still others may like the school itself, but get tired of the bullying or bad behavior of some of their children's classmates, behavior which never seems to be corrected appropriately by those in authority.
For others it may begin before their children have even entered school. Encounters with peaceful, happy homeschooling families, research into the costs of Catholic education in their area, and a desire to have more say in what their children learn may war with their preconceived notions about education in general and homeschooling in particular. They may begin to consider homeschooling far more seriously than they ever would have imagined.
In both of these cases, the call from God may be similar. The seeds of dissatisfaction having been planted, there next will come that time period when "I'd never do that!" begins to be in conflict with the more wistful thought, "I'd like to do that." Families in this position, in my opinion, should approach God in prayer at this point, and attempt to discern His will for them. If they do this honestly and sincerely, I believe that God will indeed reveal His will.
It may be that they really aren't being called to homeschool, for reasons specific to themselves and/or to their family's particular situation. There really are some situations where traditional schooling may be the better option, at least for the present time, and generally speaking no one but the family themselves will be aware of the specific reasons why this is so.
But if there are no such obstacles, and if the desire to homeschool begins to grow stronger and stronger, then I think the family should consider investigating the various methods and curricula available for their children. Attending a meeting of a local homeschooling group might be a good idea at this point, too, to get to talk to parents who are 'in the trenches' so to speak and who, with their varied experiences, will probably be able to answer the family's questions and concerns.
One thing I've noticed among homeschooling families is that many of them say that making the decision to homeschool might not have been easy, and homeschooling itself might not be easy, but there's no doubt in their minds that they made the right decision and are doing the right thing. Many seem to experience a great deal of peace once they've committed to the course of homeschooling, the peace of knowing that they've discerned God's will for them and are fulfilling it to the best of their ability.
I encourage all who are considering homeschooling to enter into the process of prayerful and thoughtful discernment, knowing that many others have gone before you on this road, and that all of us are willing to help in any way we can. Specifically, I welcome comments here from those who are considering the choice to homeschool their children and who would like to ask questions or get advice. Or, if you'd rather not comment, please feel free to email me at the address on the left side of the blog with your questions or concerns.