Thursday, September 9, 2010

Generally speaking...

One more post on homeschooling, and then I promise I'll get back to snarky political stuff and cultural issues.

I think the reason there is sometimes tension between homeschooling Catholic families and non-homeschooling Catholic families is that question of judgment. But where it gets complicated, as it always does, is that there's a big difference between judging between different ideas or different ways of schooling, and judging individual families for their choices.

To look at examples other than homeschooling, let's look at the breastfeeding campaign and its slogans. By spreading the "Breast is best!" message, pro-breastfeeding groups have done a good job convincing women who don't have any strong reasons not to try nursing to try it; they have also created a big support network so that a mom won't feel like her only option is to quit should things go badly at first, or should an issue crop up later that makes nursing difficult. These are both very good things, because breastfeeding really is good for babies most of the time.

Some of the mothers who can't nurse for various reasons have expressed negative feelings about these types of campaigns, however. They lament the "guilt trip" they feel for not breastfeeding their babies. They speak slightingly of moms who are enthusiastic about nursing. They get defensive about their decision to bottle-feed, and wave the "You're judging me!" flag whenever someone talks about the benefits of nursing.

I will quickly say that this is not by any means true of the majority of moms who can't or didn't nurse, or who gave up early on. Most of them are either secure in their reasons to choose as they did, or else will admit that they wish they'd tried nursing, or sought help instead of quitting in the first few weeks. But there are those moms who, for whatever reason, see any discussion of breastfeeding among other moms as a de facto judgment on them for not doing it.

And that's too bad, because that's not true. To say that breastfeeding is best, generally speaking, is not to say that every single mother will be able to do it naturally and successfully and regardless of whatever circumstances there are in her life. Things that are best generally may not work out in many particular, individual situations.

The same thing is true for Catholic families with two full-time working parents. I'm not judging those families when I say that, generally speaking, it's much better for one parent to be able to be home full time with the children than for them to be in someone else's care. Their particular situation may be one of financial hardship or a whole host of other things I can't possibly see from the outside. But should I avoid saying that generally speaking a child does better when raised by one of his or her own parents than by a sitter, nanny, day-care center, etc.? Especially when I am convinced of the truth of this statement?

Here's where I know this may get a bit controversial, although nobody who reads this blog should be surprised at my viewpoint: I think our culture is terribly, dysfunctionally, destructively sick. Its errors are poison to our children's souls and their developing minds. Where an adult has experience to lend perspective to his encounters with the culture and his rational decisions about how and when to interact with it, children do not. If the schools were doing their jobs and serving as an antidote to this destructive and poisonous culture, that would be one thing; but for the most part they are not, and some are serving as conduits to it (e.g., Planned Parenthood giving presentations to high school students, condom distribution in high schools and middle schools, and teaching third-graders about gender reassignment surgery, just for a few examples).

Given the above, I think it is fair to say generally speaking that for the serious Christian family who wants to raise their children in the faith and protect them while they are young and impressionable from the destructive poisons of our dysfunctional culture, homeschooling is the best option. Now, please note that I said generally speaking. I have heard of tiny independent non-accredited non-government-associated schools run by deeply faithful people who strive for holiness themselves and are not afraid to stand up for Christian principles, moral teachings, and virtues in the classroom because, indeed, the school expects it, etc. I have heard of situations where parents can't possibly homeschool for all sorts of serious and valid reasons (and may not be able to afford Catholic school, either). I have heard of faithful orthodox Catholic schools run by faithful orthodox religious orders (and, sorry, but Legion of Christ/RC schools don't cut it). I have even suspected that in a few dioceses in America, diocesan schools might be improving themselves away from the felt-banner liberal mush claptrap years I endured as a child; but I'm an inveterate skeptic, and will believe in diocesan schools when they stop bragging about the percent of their graduates who go on to elite colleges and high-profile jobs, and start talking about the percentage that actually remains--you know--faithful practicing Catholics, which is a great deal more important than worldly success.

The point is, for an individual's family circumstances homeschooling may simply be impossible or unwise in any given year; I also think that homeschooling is a call. Is that paradoxical to the idea that it is also, generally speaking, the best way to raise children in the faith? Well, as I wrote three years ago in the post linked above:
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.
Even in that post, I used those two words: generally speaking. They really are the heart of the matter of the question of homeschooling vs. other types of schooling. Generally speaking, homeschool is the best choice for many Catholics and other Christian believers right here, right now. We are living in a post-Christian culture in a nation that celebrates degeneracy; those values, like it or not, will be communicated to our children; if our children are exposed to those values overwhelmingly and to our Christian values only tangentially or minimally, it will be increasingly difficult for them to resist the peer pressure to stop being "weird" and start enjoying the hedonistic materialistic anti-paradise that is twenty-first century America.

So we have the choice to homeschool--or, if for whatever reason that choice isn't feasible for us as individuals, we have the choice to watch carefully over every book, lesson, teacher and class our child is exposed to, to question the school's values, policies, attitudes, and ethics at every turn, to be the kind of parent the school absolutely hates to see coming, and to be willing to take names and demand answers if, for instance, your child is made fun of by his classmates at the Catholic school for coming from a large family and having a mom who "doesn't work." And that's for the Catholic school; multiply that by a factor of at least ten if your child attends a public school, and starts coming home telling you about the neat book about two kings getting married that his teacher read to him at story time.

We're not the first generation to have to defend our children against a toxic and antithetical culture that has destroyed the notion of virtue, that sees faith as a crutch, a fairy tale, or a lie, and that seeks to reshape the world based on its own immoral and ugly notions of what is good and right. But we're kidding ourselves if we pretend that all educational choices are equally safe and good for our children. Because they're not. Generally speaking.


Anonymous said...

Uhhh, I thought you were going to get back to hot button political issues after one more home school post...I think you've successfully and importantly married the two.

I agree that for some families home education is a calling, even if done imperfectly. For other families (I'll use ours as an example) it was the best of our options for our elementary aged daughters. I'm somewhat ambivalent about it, actually, but less so as we roll into year two.

As is often the case, our own extended family is convinced we're just doing it as a folly before our kids are sent to "real" school. The little intimations of how much they're missing out on, how different they'll be from other kids, etc., used to leave a knot in my stomach. Now it brings on an AMEN, because I'm counting on them missing out and being different from most other kids their ages. Praise God.

Another thing I've concluded is their academic educations, while important, are secondary to their spiritual well being. This is a difficult concept for most non-home schoolers to grasp, especially in the face of a culture that worships at the Altar of University. Also, the somewhat idealized example of home schooled children as automatic geniuses can be burdensome for those of us who appreciate academic excellence, but relish the honest average effort of our honest average pupils. That said, the state of public schools academic standards being what they are, it doesn't take much effort to exceed them, even for the averagely educated mildly interested parent. Even if the education was far superior to the one I supply, yet the cultural atmosphere remained the same, I still wouldn't send them to most schools, public or otherwise. Above all else, my responsibility to them is to facilitate their eternal relationship. I would have to agree with your "best" assessment of school at home to achieve that end(in the interest of full disclosure, my 5 year old started Kindergarten at a terrific Catholic school on Tuesday - there's always a wild card around here).

JMB said...

I agree with you in that homeschooling is a vocation. Not every parent (mother typically) wants or desires to be the sole educator of her children. For those that do, I am all for that choice. But it is a choice, and I don't agree that in this day and age, it is the "best option" for serious minded Christian parents. It is one option, and a good one, no doubt. But God is larger than we are, and there is grace in all walks of life.
I live in NJ. I am surrounded by serious minded people who work really hard to afford living in this part of the country. Our public and parochial schools reflect this reality.
You speak about your little corner of the world -Texas? There is a bigger world out there. And it's not so bad. You may be surprised that you have a lot more in common with a public schooling Catholic mom from NJ than a homeschooling skirt wearing only crafty mom.

Red Cardigan said...

JMB, I have lived in or near Chicago, IL; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; and Philadelphia, PA, in addition to smaller areas that I'm sure don't count (Kansas City and Jefferson City, MO; Dayton, OH, and Charlotte, NC). I attended no less than eight different Catholic schools in my 10 years of non-homeschooling education before my parents, fed up with the weak-as-dishwater faith we were being taught and the constant message that wealth and success were more important than figuring out one's vocation and living a life of service to God, pulled us out and started homeschooling us.

If the public schooling Catholic mom from New Jersey is pro-life and anti-contraception, won't let her eight-year-old watch R-rated movies, doesn't have to drag her 13-year-old son to Mass every week, and hasn't given up altogether on her 17-year-old, who announced her atheism last Christmas, then you're right--I might have plenty in common with her. Otherwise--well, I've been a lot of places and I've met a lot of people, and I have yet to find that core of deeply committed faithful Catholics who never fell away from the Church despite being taught in public schools (though individual exceptions can be found, and nearly always involve those parents I spoke of who are willing to be the school's worst nightmare for the duration of their child's education). Heck, I can't even find that many *Catholic* school graduates who think of "Catholic" as an essential part of their lives instead of a vague cultural descriptor.

Charlotte said...

I would love to (and maybe someday I will) write a post about why - for the time being, who knows what the future holds - have decided against homeschooling for my son. This decision after believing for years that I would be a homeschool parent. I wonder if fellow homeschooling "good" Catholics would understand or judge me?

As an interesting aside, even while my son just started preschool for 2 mornings a week at our Catholic parish school, we have already been labeled as "*those* parents" because we sent a notification in writing to the school that our son was not to be exposed to any stranger danger/good touch-bad touch curriculum.

ANYWAY, out of curiosity, why do you say the LC/RC schools don't cut it? I'm just wondering if you're saying that just because they're LC or because there is something actually wrong with how they do things. (Yes, I know your whole theory on if the foundation is rotten, then everything else is too. Note that I have no LC conection or opinion on the matter.) I guess I'm just asking because other than the scandal, it would seem that those would be some pretty decent Catholic schools.

Red Cardigan said...

Charlotte, I only "know" you from your blog, but believe me when I say that I support your decision and do not judge you at all. For one thing, I think any parents of an only child (or one where the only sibling is five, six, or more years younger) have to consider the impact of that upon homeschooling. Children do learn from each other--most homeschooling moms would agree there.

It's kind of like the breastfeeding question. I can say, with the nursing supporters, that "breast is best!" But saying that does not at all mean that I wouldn't understand, and have great sympathy for, a mom who was on prescription medicines and could not nurse after pregnancy (and maybe had to suffer through the pregnancy on less effective medicines or none at all). In fact, I've known at least one mom in this situation, and I was pretty mad when another mom went on and on in front of her in a very pointed way about how great it was that someone else in the group was nursing.

As for the LC schools question: yes, my default position right now is to avoid anything being run by an order whose founder was a sexually deviant pedophile con man who structured the whole organization to hide that fact. Until the steps the Vatican is taking start to show some concrete results, I plan to steer clear of their various works. It's sort of off-putting to see the schools still proclaiming that they're the best thing going, and orthodox, and holy, and wise--well, except for being duped for years by a man devoid of real religious sentiment, who was a sexually deviant pedophile con-man to boot. But other than that...!

But then, I'm a bit of a cynic on that issue.

scotch meg said...

JMB, it's so easy to get defensive about our educational choices - just like anything to do with our kids. We make the best decision we can, whatever it may be. That said, I live in a suburb of Boston (by definition pricey, although maybe not as bad as the NJ/NY/CT area. Many families work hard to afford a house, and many need two incomes to do so. My kids have been in the (highly rated) public schools here, the (highly rated) Catholic elementary school, and one (highly rated) Catholic high school. But nothing has worked as well as home schooling. And I have to admit to feeling guilty when I tell people we started homeschooling because it was our best educational choice in northern Maine - it's a cop-out, because the folks around here assume we only had awful schools available; but the public high school was a nationally ranked "blue ribbon" high school and in some ways even better than the one in my current town. So it's not just a question of the location. It truly is a call. And it truly can provide a better alternative, if you're called to do it.

MightyMighty said...

I was homeschooled 3-5th grade, after being pulled out of a Catholic school whose sex ed for 7th graders raised the hair on the back of my dad's neck. Why pay for private school if that school isn't even living out the faith?

My years as a homeschooler were incredibly formative. I went from being picked on a lot for being awkward and shy, and thinking that I was just somewhat "less" than my peers, to being a strong student who was able to make friends. Homeschooling helped me by taking me out of the social shark tank during key years. It would have been great to continue, but my mom had to get a job.

Homeschooling is SO powerful that even three years of it forever changed my self-concept and my academic capacity. I became a self-starter who devoured books. I had been put in the slow reading group at the Catholic school. How different my life would have been if my parents hadn't decided to pull me out.

JMB: Red Cardigan is brilliant, and all of her statements were balanced and well-couched. If the best you can muster is to insult Texas and her fashion, then that's a pretty good clue that you don't have much of an argument.

If you read the available research, there is no close second to homeschooling for bright, well-socialized kids. Books by the Moores might be helpful. Plus the whole thing about a parent not wanting to be the sole educator doesn't really hold water. That is the vocation held by parents whether they want it or not. The notion of sending your children away to be cared for and educated by other people is relatively new in the history of mankind, setting aside some of the earliest failed social experiments.

Charlotte said...

Boy, MightyMight, would I like to tell you about some Catholic homeschool famliies I have known in my life who do not resemble your glowing reports of how homeschooling kid usually turn out. (Trust me - I know ALOT of homeschool folks; close friends with many of them.)

But no one ever wants to talk about *those* families.

In other words, no, homeschooling is definitely not always the preferred choice.

Red Cardigan said...

Again, Charlotte, you'll get no argument here. Just like a mother who simply can't produce enough breast milk to feed her child properly may have to give up on her dream of no solids until after baby is two, a family that is ill-prepared to homeschool or is lacking in any of the bare minimum essentials necessary for such an undertaking should use ordinary discernment to figure that out.

What are those essentials? I can't possibly list all of them and they'll vary family to family, but some would be the unity of the parents and the health of their marriage generally, the self-discipline capabilities of the mother (which don't have to be of the "supermom" level, but do have to exist in some measure), and the intention to homeschool in what an organization I know of calls a "bona fide manner;" some level of general discipline and respect for the parents by the children is needed as well.

But just because some families jump in to homeschooling rashly and without proper discernment doesn't mean that homeschooling isn't *generally speaking* (there are those words again) the best choice available for serious Christian families--just as the fact that some women aren't what a nurse I know once called "good producers" doesn't mean that breast isn't best for babies--again, *generally speaking.*

JMB said...

I wasn't attacking Red, nor am I being "defensive" about the educational choices that we've made for our children. I've been a regular reader of her blog for about 2 years now. I simply don't believe that homeschooling is the "only and best option" for the serious minded Christian. That's it. It's one of many good options.

My siblings and I attended a mediocre Catholic school in the 70s and 80s. My dad played guitar in the folk mass and we all made our banners and sang "Day by Day" at Mass. Guess what? All eight of us are practicing faithful Catholics, and one of my brothers is a priest. We went to all types of high schools(and colleges)- public, private Catholic, Benedictine boarding schools, Jesuit high school - and we retained the faith.
Was it magic? Maybe it was the Holy Spirit, working in conjunction with my parents. And so I hope that it is with our children too.

We've moved our children around depending upon their needs. Years ago we pulled our son out of a Catholic school because he wasn't thriving, and surprise surprise we found a hell of a lot more Christian charity at a public school. Now as a freshman in high school he is attending an all boys private Catholic high school.

And on a side note, my younger children have gone through our public elementary school since day one and they have never been exposed to "Heather has two mommies", condom lessons or being made fun of because they come from a large family and that I don't work. I reviewed the health talk for the 4th and 5th graders, and opted one child out of the class- with no backlash or fights with the principal. The biggest issue I have with our school is the Every Day Math program which leaves a lot to be desired for.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with the breastfeeding example, which can be extrapolated to homeschooling: It is never admitted that for those of us who, for various reasons, did not breastfeed, in our situation not breastfeeding was the superior choice. The best. And that's never happened to me; even if there isn't a slight accusation of me not trying hard enough or examining all possibilities, etc., then the default position is "poor you". No, it's not poor in any manner at all; it's terrific. It's great, for me. I don't want your sympathy and that's always all that is offered.

And homeschooling is the same; it's not sadly or reluctantly I don't homeschool. It's great that I don't; it's the superior, more excellent choice for me.

That's the part that's missing in these discussions. The "generally speaking" is fine for overall averages, but once you get down to specific human beings, there are no generalities, just choices that are made that really are the best for us.

And regarding another point, it's a whole 'nother discussion which someone touched upon - yes, I agree that spiritual formation is priority over academics - but how long do you carry that out? When is it time to enter the secular world with this homeschooled spiritual foundation? I see SO many who go from homeschool to theology degree at Steubenville or Christendom and I know I'm in the minority among practicing Catholics when I say I do not think that's the best choice for most students. So, here's the reverse: generally speaking, it's better to get into top universities and go to law or med school. For some, it's not the best choice. But, generally speaking, that's pretty darn fabulous. And it's rarely the Catholics who do that.


Red Cardigan said...

NYa, I don't take a "poor you" approach to families who don't homeschool. You will probably judge me for this, but there are times I meet someone and think, "Thank *God* they're not homeschooling." I'm sure they're just as thankful to God that He hasn't asked them to.

But I've got to admit that this: "So, here's the reverse: generally speaking, it's better to get into top universities and go to law or med school. For some, it's not the best choice. But, generally speaking, that's pretty darn fabulous. And it's rarely the Catholics who do that." just made me smile. Because, no, I don't think that worldly success is the best choice for most Catholics, not even generally speaking. But that *was* the message I had drummed into me in Catholic schools: that my job was to go to college and then grad school and then post-grad work and then have a brilliant career--and if I had to contracept, delay marriage, utilize day care centers or nannies, and lose a husband or two on the way, well, that's just the price of success.

What does it profit a man, et cetera.

Anonymous said...

This is just your opinion. Which you are entitled to, it's your blog. No where in Church teaching does it say anything about homeschooling.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, I do support homeschoolers; when done well, it can be a great thing, if that's what you are meant to do. (Although I do wish there was a way that we could group all homeschooling Catholic families together and have them pouring into their local parish schools; imagine what affordable and orthodox Catholic schools could do for our society.)

But regarding success and faithfulness, I do believe we can - and should - do both if we are called to, if God gives us the talents to do exactly that. Who says that losing your soul is a guarantee of secular success? That seems based in fear, and can be unhealthy to have seep into teens'/young adults' thinking about themselves, their abilities and the choices they make for their goals in life.

I can't think of a better way to change this sick culture than to be in it and the only real way that's going to happen is if good, intelligent, spiritually-grounded Catholics enter into society at all levels. We need Catholic doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, artists, musicians, writers, military leaders, we need to support businesses run by practicing Catholics, vote for Catholic politicians, etc. etc. We need to change the culture and while some are going to choose vocations that will pretty much guarantee they will be poor or at least struggle financially and have little influence on society, surely there are those of us who are meant to be in the thick of it, in the largest cities, the best universities, the highest level of government, running the best hospitals, etc. Some of the homeschooling scene seems to be taking some of the best and brightest and insisting they stay in the catacombs. Again, that's fine if that's truly your vocation, but some of us are given gifts that must be lived out in a radically different way, and usually, secondarily, means secular success and powerful community positions. I mean, there were Catholic kings who became saints; I think contemporary society needs a version of that.


Clare said...

I was homeschooled for 8 years, then went to a private Catholic all girls school. When senior year rolled around, I was choosing between Thomas Aquinas College and Dartmouth College.

Homeschooling was great in many respects. I am so lucky for the time I with my mom and my siblings, and for the academic freedom. But it was no paradise either. I hated the Catholic girls' clubs and the sewing classes. I read Harry Potter, and was subjected to a barrage of well meaning attempts to "convert" me. My friends were allowed to listen to classical and Christian music; I was cutting my teeth on the Grateful Dead. Basically, I didn't
fit in, and on several occasions I was made to feel this very pointedly by adults and children alike.
I am NOT saying all homeschoolers are crazy, or boring, or borderline amish. I am saying that "homeschooling" is an not an abstract concept, but an experience rooted in specific communities, familial situations, and personal needs. So while Homeschooling as an ideal might be the best choice, I don't think abstract generalities are very helpful when dealing with human beings.
I ended up choosing Dartmouth (I'm a sophomore), because I knew going to Aquinas would be the quickest and most fool-proof way to lose my faith. I am naturally a prickly, ambitious, fast-talking contrarian. Dartmouth is what I need: a challenging education that constantly opens up new ways to pursue my goals, and an environment that forces my to constantly analyze and fight for my convictions. So, I think college choice is much like homeschooling. "What's the best option theoretically for Catholics?" is a much less important question than "What's the best option for this specific person?"

Red Cardigan said...

I've never said this isn't my opinion; I certainly wouldn't claim that the Church tells us to homeschool our kids (and I grit my teeth over clashes between Catholic homeschoolers and their bishops. I wish their excellencies would remember that we are Catholic schools, too).

But the Church also doesn't tell women that they can't stash their kids in daycare and pursue high-powered, materially satisfying careers. We're supposed to figure all of these things out as we pursue holiness.

CCC 2223 and 2229 are especially important to me, in that this is where I draw many of my convictions about homeschooling. I have the right and the duty to educate my children in the faith. CCC 2229 speaks to my right to choose a school which corresponds to my own convictions. If the public schools do not do this in any appreciable way, and if the local Catholic schools are more like pricey private schools " the Catholic tradition..." then I am happy to fulfill these obligations by homeschooling.

Again, we should not forget the question Clare mentions, e.g., what's the best option for this specific person? But what's wrong with stating general principles? How many women would choose breastfeeding if all of the rhetoric about it were a sort of, "Well, we believe this is usually good for some children and their moms, but really, it doesn't work for everyone, and you should consider whether it will work for you and not feel conflicted in any way about it..." I think in that case we'd still have lots of circa 1950s views on nursing, where women just didn't want to deal with the ways that nursing can be icky or uncomfortable or embarrassing.

If you are lucky enough to have a school that truly corresponds to your convictions, will help you in your task as Christian educators, and will not teach your children lies as truth, bully for you--seriously. The rest of us out here reflect on the Catechism's treatment of the fourth commandment, note the total *absence* of such schools within our reach, and choose homeschooling.

It's true, though: one of my convictions is that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that justifying the pursuit of wealth and material success is not one of my values. So I'm not all that impressed by the idea that homeschooling is fine for those of us willing to fail to reach our full career potential, but not for those who truly want to make a difference in the world via some prestigious career or other.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

If all the experts and all the advocacy groups could just get through their heads that because something, as you say, GENERALLY SPEAKING, has much to recommend it, doesn't mean that for EACH INDIVIDUAL it is THE thing to do, we'd be light years better off than we presently are.

Beth said...

"I see SO many who go from homeschool to theology degree at Steubenville or Christendom and I know I'm in the minority among practicing Catholics when I say I do not think that's the best choice for most students. "

I'm on the minority with you in this one.

I get concerned when anyone would try to pushes a "generally speaking" every family should be homeschooling ideology.

To be this limited in your vision of what is ideal tells me that you do not live too much outside of your own realm, perhaps you do not have many other families in your life that successfully raise children in the faith without homeschooling?

My homeschooling neighbor went on an on with me about how lazy public school kids were-- I guess she didn't realize how sad my kids were when her daughter came to babysit and did nothing but listen to her ipod and read. It was truly ironic-she did not babysit for long.

I personally know may public high school kids whose virtue and commitment to truth inspires me--got out there more Red and see the world--there really is some good in it

Anonymous said...

If you want to do it, go for it. If it's not for you, don't feel guilty. "For there are many rooms in my mansion". God wants us to be happy. If teaching children makes you happy you should do it. If it doesn't, find something else to do with your time.

Sarahndipity said...

I have to disagree with the comparison of homeschooling to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been *scientifically proven* to be superior to formula. It’s not like it’s just better for some babies but not others. Formula is never the *superior* choice, it’s just necessary in some circumstances.
When it comes to schooling, though, there is no one choice that is superior to all others. There is only the right choice for individuals. I truly believe that Catholic, private or public school can actually be the superior choice for some people.
I’m surprised you’ve never met any public schooled Catholics who never left the faith. My husband and I both attended public schools our entire lives, from kindergarten through college, and neither of us ever left the faith. We had a friend in college who was also public schooled her entire life who became a nun. A good friend of mine from (public) high school is also becoming a nun in a few months. I know of many more examples as well.
I honestly believe that the parents’ example and what they teach their kids about the faith at home has far more influence on the kids than what sort of schooling they have. I’ve never understood why some parents think public school will be such a terrible influence on their kids. If you give your kids a solid grounding in the faith, they won’t be led astray simply by attending public school. If they are, their faith wasn’t very strong to begin with and they probably would have lost it anyway even if they had been homeschooled.
My friends from my public high school included a pagan and a born-again Christian. The conversations I had with them about religion helped *strengthen* my Catholic faith and clarify why I believe what I do.
I never, in all my years of public schools, read “Heather has two mommies” or put a condom on a banana. My devout Catholic parents sent me to public school sex ed, and it was really quite innocuous. Most of it was just about what happens to you during puberty, stages of fetal development, etc. We did have to learn about different methods of birth control, but I did what I often did back then: memorized it for the test and then forgot about it. I knew I was going to abstain from sex until marriage anyway, and I did, because my parents taught me well.
I also don’t think people are concerned about academics or getting into a good college solely because they’re materialistic. My husband and I are “work to live” people and not terribly career-oriented, but we still think academics and college are important, simply because everyone needs to support themselves, and it’s getting harder and harder to support a family. If your son wants to support a big Catholic family on one income, a good job is pretty important.
I KNOW I would suck at homeschooling, which is why I don’t do it. FOR US, public school is the superior choice.